Friday, November 13, 2009

Turning Boys into Girls?

My father recently alerted me to an article about chemical exposure and children. It was interesting to me for a number of reasons.

I didn't really learn anything new; I have been on top of those particular chemicals for awhile now, starting before I got pregnant in the first place. The parabens and the phthalates are in a lot of things. The parabens especially are prevalent in pretty much any make up you buy at a department store, including the higher end products, and both are present in shampoos, etc., along with many other ingredients of concern.

What interests me in this article are some of the comments and assumptions. For instance, the whole "boys are playing like girls" comment is troubling in a number of ways that possibly expose more fear and prejudice than anything else, and I wonder if the study took into consideration that more people could be exposing their sons and daughters to toys associated with both boys and girls, purposefully. As those chemicals are prevalent in everyone due to their presence in so many every day products, and without reading the original report, it's hard to say what's going on. It depends upon how the original study was set up.

While more people are now becoming aware of problems associated with these chemicals and others like BPA, it does not mean that those who previously were unaware were not "alternative" in other ways, such as having less stricture when it comes to approaching socially accepted gender roles. Plus, I wonder how much of the "blame" for the other results can be placed on these chemicals alone. There are so many aspects of modern human life that are affecting our evolution, it's hard to isolate. I would be careful of conclusions based on perceived causation.

The likely case is that the study gives a balanced, scientific approach and response, and the interpretation by articles like these draw their own conclusions.

All of the results mentioned, actually, tie into gender-based fears related to the feminization of men: less sperm, smaller genitalia, dresses, tea sets, fewer boys in general. To be fair, he does give brief mention of the threat to "machismo," but I think there is more to the conclusions than is being shown here.

Also, I think that the writer is probably convoluting some things. He mentions the Danish study, then switches to a Canadian report talking about dioxins, which are not the same things as the other two chemicals that he mentions.

He says to avoid using plastic containers for food, but he should emphasize that plastic should never be heated in the microwave and also should not go into dishwashers. Basically, I think that the use of plastic should be reduced in every day life. It shows exceptional usefulness in things like medicine, and as oil is not a renewable resource, plastics should be reserved either for long-lasting items or for medical care/etc.

The above questions are no reason to not take the use of these chemicals and others seriously. It is possible to accomplish all the necessary tasks of daily life without most of them, and that is what we try to do, though it is difficult, especially when it comes to the phthalates. It's just me, trying to be analytical and critical about incoming information because I have been seeing such a lack of those qualities in public discourse recently. It made me wonder where my blind spots are.

"Healthy Child, Healthy World" is a good organization, overall. They were founded in the late 1980's as the "Children's Health Environmental Coalition" by two parents whose daughter died of cancer at a very young age. The parents concluded that it was due to chemicals, mainly pesticides, in the environment, and research eventually seemed to support this conclusion. Other than that, the organization encourages whole, organic foods, safe cleaning products, and a reduction in the exposure to chemicals, and that is a good thing.

(Thanks for the link, Dad! It provoked some good thinking on my part!)

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