The 60 Minutes report notes increased incidents of hypospadias, a birth defect affecting male sexual organs. Certain studies have linked this defect to phthalates, fanning the fears responsible for the noxious CPSIA. In the segment, a Dr. Howard Snyder of the The Children's Hospital in Philadelphia cites a "three-fold increase" in hypospadias in live male births in the last "30-40 years". Dr. Snyder "suspects" that phthalates is the "something" that is interfering in the womb with the production of testosterone leading to hypospadias. He highlights studies that "seem to point to" phthalates as the cause of low sperm counts and other ills in adult males. Thus, the link to hypospadias, or so he says.
Time to panic?
Well, before you move back into the caves, please consider this May 2009 study published in the Journal of Urology on the incidents of hypospadias in New York State from 1992-2005 (previously posted in my blog one year ago). The purpose of the study was described as follows: "Recently there has been concern that [certain male sexual organ] abnormalities described in animal studies may also be present in humans. To determine if hypospadias rates are increasing, we retrospectively reviewed the total prevalence of hypospadias in New York State from 1992 to 2005, categorized by maternal age younger than 35 years and 35 years or older." [See also this George Mason University analysis.]
You will be interested to know that one of the four authors of the Journal of Urology study is Dr. Sarah Lambert - of The Children's Hospital in Philadelphia, apparently one of Dr. Snyder's co-workers.
The authors conclude:
"Hypospadias rates have NOT changed in New York State from 1992 to 2005. Additionally advanced maternal age continues to be a risk factor for hypospadias. Combined with previous studies that demonstrate sperm counts are NOT declining, these data suggest that the testicular dysgenesis syndrome described in animal models may not be evident in humans." [Emphasis added]
One of the authors noted the significance of this study: "These studies break the link between the purported cause — phthalates — and their presumed effect — impaired male reproductive health, says Dr. Harry Fisch, director of the Male Reproductive Center at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center and professor of clinical urology at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. 'It's all in the data,' says Dr. Fisch. 'For one, the entire method of collecting data on birth defects has changed. Statewide surveillance of birth defects has become the norm. This calls into question the value of the older data. Second,' he adds, 'we can't assume that these chemicals are harmful at low, environmentally allowable levels just because we've seen high rates of exposure to phthalates in utero have been linked to hypospadias in animal studies.'" [Emphasis added]
Dr. Snyder seems to have overlooked some of these points.
The author of the study goes on to point out the obvious: "'Environmental chemicals need to be regulated,' says Dr. Fisch, 'but policies should be based on science, not fear.'"
What, is he crazy? Who ever heard of regulating based on SCIENCE, NOT FEAR?! Some people . . . .
Memo to Senators Feinstein and Boxer: Given the fear that the increasing age of birth mothers today may be linked to rising birth defects, perhaps you should regulate when mothers can conceive children. This would be yet another great regulatory innovation from California. Groundbreaking!
Anyone think that's too much government intrusion? Mr. Orwell, any thoughts? Darn, we all threw out our copies of "1984" because we couldn't be sure they were produced with lead-free ink.
This makes my head hurt. Wouldn't it just be easier to drive the children's product industry into bankruptcy? That's probably a better way to deal with hypospadias.