According to Geoffrey Lean in the Telegraph they are, and here’s why:

Why boys are turning into girls

Here’s something rather rotten from the State of Denmark. Its government yesterday unveiled official research showing that two-year-old children are at risk from a bewildering array of gender-bending chemicals in such everyday items as waterproof clothes, rubber boots, bed linen, food, nappies, sunscreen lotion and moisturising cream.

The 326-page report, published by the environment protection agency, is the latest piece in an increasingly alarming jigsaw. A picture is emerging of ubiquitous chemical contamination driving down sperm counts and feminising male children all over the developed world. And anti-pollution measures and regulations are falling far short of getting to grips with it.

Sperm counts are falling so fast that young men are less fertile than their fathers and produce only a third as much, proportionately, as hamsters. And gender-bending chemicals are increasingly being blamed for the mystery of the “lost boys”: babies who should normally be male who have been born as girls instead.

The Danish government set out to find out how much contamination from gender-bending chemicals a two-year-old child was exposed to every day. It concluded that a child could be “at critical risk” from just a few exposures to high levels of the substances, such as from rubber clogs, and imperilled by the amount it absorbed from sources ranging from food to sunscreens.

The results build on earlier studies showing that British children have higher levels of gender-bending chemicals in their blood than their parents or grandparents. Indeed WWF (formerly the World Wildlife Fund), which commissioned the older research, warned that the chemicals were so widespread that “there is very little, if anything, individuals can do to prevent contamination of themselves and their families.” Prominent among them are dioxins, PVC, flame retardants, phthalates (extensively used to soften plastics) and the now largely banned PCBs, one and a half million tons of which were used in countless products from paints to electrical equipment.

Young boys, like those in the Danish study, could end up producing less sperm and developing feminised behaviour. Research at Rotterdam’s Erasmus University found that boys whose mothers were exposed to PCBs and dioxins were more likely to play with dolls and tea sets and dress up in female clothes.

And it is in the womb that babies are most vulnerable; a study of umbilical cords from British mothers found that every one contained hazardous chemicals. Scientists at the University of Rochester in New York discovered that boys born to women exposed to phthalates had smaller penises and other feminisation of the genitals…….(click here for the rest of the article)

Disturbing stuff isn’t it? But I bet you can guess which bit of this article disturbed me the most….

Just in case you missed it, here it is again:

“Research at Rotterdam’s Erasmus University found that boys whose mothers were exposed to PCBs and dioxins were more likely to play with dolls and tea sets and dress up in female clothes.”

Now I’m prepared to accept that chemical contamination may well be effecting some physical/biological changes in both animals and humans, including the reduction in men’s sperm count that Lean cites here, but hello, massive and ridiculous gender stereotype alert anyone?

Even if the contamination Lean talks about is having an adverse impact on the size of men’s genitals and their levels of fertility, what the fucking fuckety fuck has any of that got to do with influencing the toys they play with or the clothes they wear? Wtf has biology got to do with socially constructed gender roles?

Well, I’ve had a couple of days now to try and absorb the implications of Lean’s assertion that boys playing with tea sets and dolls amounts to some kind of proof positive that “gender-bending” chemicals (by which he means endocrine disruptors) are actually turning boys into girls. I’ve also had a couple of days to do some research into it: and here’s what I’ve found.

One of the first mentions of the Erasmus University study linking exposure to PCBs with children’s play was in an article in the Independent on Sunday published on October 20th 2002 (no link I’m afraid as it doesn’t appear to be available online). Entitled Gender-bending risk to children, the article states:

Minute amounts of “gender bender” chemicals found in food and the environment are affecting the behaviour of pre-school children, new research shows.

The Environment minister Michael Meacher said yesterday the research was very disturbing and he would ask his officials to “urgently” examine its implications tomorrow morning.

The study – carried out by doctors and scientists at the Erasmus University in Rotterdam – is the first in the world to show that normal levels of the chemicals affect humans. It follows a host of studies showing that gender-benders can turn wildlife species, from gulls and alligators to fish and turtles, into hermaphrodites. In the case of the children in the study, the chemicals caused girls to play with guns and pretend to be soldiers, and boys to play with dolls and tea sets and dress up in female clothes.

The research, published in the scientific journal Environmental Health Perspectives, is part of a long-term study into the effects of PCBs and dioxins on children. The researchers measured levels of the chemicals in the blood of 207 mothers in their final month of pregnancy, in umbilical blood at birth, and in breast milk two weeks after birth, to determine exposure in the womb.

They later asked the parents of the children, now aged seven, to record their patterns of play.

The girls exposed to higher levels of PCBs were more likely to engage in masculine play, while similarly exposed boys were more likely to enjoy feminine play. Dioxins produced more feminine play in boys and girls.

And the author of the piece?

Geoffrey Lean.

A few days later the story was picked up by the U.N. Wire:

“Gender-Benders” In Small Amounts Said To Alter Child Behavior
Tuesday, October 22, 2002

New research indicates even small amounts of so-called “gender bender” chemicals can cause preschool children to switch their traditional gender roles.

In a long-term study, Erasmus University Rotterdam researchers measured the levels of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in the blood and breast milk of 207 mothers during various phases of maternity, then asked the parents involved to report on their children’s behavior seven years later.  The findings indicate that girls whose mothers had higher PCB levels were more likely to play with guns and pretend to be soldiers, while boys were more likely to play with dolls and wear female clothing (Geoffrey Lean, London Independent, Oct. 20).

And once more Lean’s name crops up.

Now fast forward a couple of years. Here’s a piece that appeared in the New Zealand Herald in August 2005:

Gender-bending toxins exempt from tough new laws

Gender-bending chemicals are to be exempted from tough new Europe-wide safety controls despite increasing concern that they are causing bizarre sex changes in children and wildlife, leaked documents reveal.

Confidential proposals show that the chemicals will be treated much less strictly than other dangerous substances in a European Commission directive to be finalised in coming months. Many are likely to escape control altogether.

The proposals – drawn up by the British Government as part of its EC presidency – will create a storm of protest, not least because they fly in the face of a formal warning given by more than 125 of the leading scientists in the field three months ago.

The scientists, who had carried out research on the chemicals for the EU, said they were “concerned about the high level of male reproductive disorders” in European countries and called for urgent action.

Sperm levels have been dropping across the industrialised world, and the chemicals – found in toys, plastics, cosmetics, pesticides, flame retardants and many other common products – are thought to be responsible.

Research published in May showed that boys born to mothers exposed to phthalates, used to make plastics more pliable, had smaller penises and other signs of genital feminisation.

Three years ago, a Dutch study showed that boys exposed to other gender-bending chemicals in the womb grew up preferring to play with dolls and tea sets.

The author this time?

Why look, it’s none other than Geoffrey Lean!

Are you starting to see a pattern emerging?

Here’s an extract from an article in the Daily Mail from February 27th 2008 entitled (rather long-windedly) Singing starlings and why thousands of babies who should have been boys are being born as girls:

…..Increasingly the sperm crisis is being blamed on a whole host of chemicals, not just synthetic oestrogen, but a wide variety of substances that have become ubiquitous in daily life.

They include the common plastic PVC; dioxins, the notorious pollutants found almost everywhere; PCBs, one-and-a-half million tons of which have been used in countless products from paints to plastics; and phthalates, universally used to make plastics more flexible.

Recent tests by WWF (formerly the World Wildlife Fund) on 14 basic foodstuffs taken from supermarket shelves found that every single one contained PCBs, and most were contaminated by phthalates.

Both substances have been shown to have deeply worrying effects on babies and children.

Scientists at Rotterdam’s Erasmus University have found that boys born to mothers exposed to PCBs grew up wanting to play with dolls and tea-sets.


Seriously, do I even need to bother answering that?

And from the Independent, December 7th 2008:

It’s official: men really are the weaker sex

Professor Lou Gillette of Florida University, one of the most respected academics in the field, warned that the report waved “a large red flag” at humanity. He said: “If we are seeing problems in wildlife, we can be concerned that something similar is happening to a proportion of human males”

Indeed, new research at the University of Rochester in New York state shows that boys born to mothers with raised levels of phthalates were more likely to have smaller penises and undescended testicles. They also had a shorter distance between their anus and genitalia, a classic sign of feminisation. And a study at Rotterdam’s Erasmus University showed that boys whose mothers had been exposed to PCBs grew up wanting to play with dolls and tea sets rather than with traditionally male toys.

Written by? Well who do you think?

To cut a long story short, what my extensive research has revealed is that virtually any mention online or in the mainstream media of the Erasmus University study, or to be more specific, virtually any mention anywhere of a link between a mother being exposed to PCBs and her son’s subsequent desire to don a frock and play at being the hostess with the mostest, is either written by, or makes a reference back to, Geoffrey Lean.

But what about the original research study, surely that backs up his almost obsessive repetition of the fact that boys whose mothers had been exposed to PCBs grew up wanting to play with dolls and tea sets rather than with traditionally male toys?

Well no, not really.

In fact, here, here’s the study itself: Effects of Perinatal Exposure to PCBs and Dioxins on Play Behavior in Dutch Children at School Age, in which the authors conclude that “higher prenatal exposure to PCBs was associated with less masculinized play behavior in boys and with more masculinized play behavior in girls” and where they suggest that these results may indicate behavioral effects of steroid hormone imbalances early in development related to prenatal exposure to PCBs and dioxins, their metabolites, and/or related compounds.”

And more importantly, here’s an extract from the text an interview with Dr. Nynke Weisglas-Kuperus, a developmental pediatrician at Erasmus University in Rotterdam, and one of the authors of the study:

Interviewer: What do levels of exposure mean here? In typical toxicology, you figure the more that somebody’s exposed to a particular chemical, the bigger the impact. What happened in this case?

WEISGLAS-KUPERUS: I think that is very difficult to say because these are very subtle findings and very low levels. But, of course, what I think is important to mention and to realize that it’s not–we cannot establish a causality with the kind of studies we do. You work with a population in a certain country with an environmental mixtures of PCBs and dioxins. And yeah, you find what you find.

Interviewer: Parents listening to us right now might be–well, they might become quite concerned about what their children are being exposed to. What’s the message you want to convey here?

WEISGLAS-KUPERUS: Well, I think, the first message is that what we did is an exploratory study. And we found subtle differences in play behavior. So, it’s subtle differences in the normal range of play behavior. I think that’s very important to realize for parents. And you should realize that we measured play behavior at a certain age. And that, in my opinion, we don’t suggest that it should have something to do with childhood gender non-conformity later on. I mean, it’s very subtle, we found.

In other words, the study did not find that boys whose mothers were exposed to PCBs grew up wanting to play with tea sets and dolls or to dress in women’s clothes: it found that at the age of 7 there were very subtle differences in the normal range of play behaviour which might suggest a link between higher pre-natal exposure to PCBs and less masculinised behaviour. But there was nothing to prove that link definitively, and absolutely no indication or evidence to suggest that this very subtle change in behaviour would have any impact on, or continue into, the boys’ later years.

And what about the Danish study that Lean refers to in his most recent article. Does that one back up his mantra that so-called gender-bending pollutants are turning boys into cross-dressers?

Again, it’s a no.

Here’s the study: Survey and Health Assessment of the exposure of 2 year-olds to chemical substances in Consumer Products, in which the authors very helpfully list the potential risks associated with endocrine disruptors:

Endocrine disruptors are thought to be the reason for a:

  • Sperm quality below the level set as normal by WHO in one in five Danish men between the ages of 18 and 20.
  • Large increase in testicular cancer over the last 60 years in Denmark, and a higher incidence than any other country in Europe. Almost 1% of Danish men are at risk of developing testicular cancer.
  • 9% incidence of cryptorchidism (testicles not fully descended into the scrotum) in Danish boys. This is significantly higher than in the 1960s. Cryptorchidism is associated with an increased risk of low sperm quality and testicular cancer.
  • Decrease in the testosterone levels in the blood of Danish men. Men born after the 1930s-1940s have lower testosterone levels than their fathers and grandfathers had at the same age. A 30-40 year-old man today has the same level as a 70 year-old did at that time.

There is, however, no conclusive proof that the above symptoms can be attributed to endocrine disruptors in our environment. There may be many other causes, such as lifestyle, including changes in diet, smoking habits and alcohol intake.

326 pages, and not a single mention of a tea set to be found!

The numerous studies that have been done into endocrine disruptors and the chemicals and pollutants we’re constantly exposed to provide us with significant cause for concern. But the feminisation of boys, in the context of chemicals causing boys to adopt more girlified behaviour like playing with dolls and monopolising the home corner in the nursery quite clearly isn’t one of them.

Maybe that’s because the toys children play with and the clothes children wear have absolutely nothing to do with biological sex, and everything to do with socially constructed gender roles. But hey, that’s just a theory mind; I could be wrong. After all, what would I know: I’m just a girl right, and girls don’t do science do they Geoffrey Lean?