Plastics blamed for the increase in malformations of the penis

Hypospadias is an abnormality of the urethra, when the opening of the penis is formed in the lower part instead of at the tip. A new study offers a theory for the cause of the increase in rates (file image)

A small study has shown a link between increasingly common penile malformations and chemicals in plastics, furniture and televisions.

Hypospadias is an abnormality of the urethra, when the opening of the penis is formed in the lower part instead of at the tip.

The condition affects one in every 200 boys, but rates are rising and in some regions, including Australia and the United Kingdom, they have doubled since 1980.

Now, in a new study published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association, an Israeli research team claims to have concrete evidence of a link between hypospadias and PDBE, the chemicals found in plastics and fragrances.

The controversial study has caused a surge of enthusiasm and concern in the medical community, and many acknowledge that the link has its merits, but warn that there is still not enough evidence to connect them unequivocally.

Hypospadias is an abnormality of the urethra, when the opening of the penis is formed in the lower part instead of at the tip. A new study offers a theory for the cause of the increase in rates (file image)

Hypospadias is an abnormality of the urethra, when the opening of the penis is formed in the lower part instead of at the tip. A new study offers a theory for the cause of the increase in rates (file image)

Hypospadias is present at the time of birth.

In milder cases, the urethra is formed not far from the tip of the penis, but in others it can be much further down the shaft, or even in the scrotum.

Surgery can be performed when the child reaches six months of age, although urologists are constantly pushing for improvements since patients usually report feeling embarrassed later in life about the appearance after the operation of their penis. .

However, the greatest pressure is for research to discover the factors that cause the condition.

This new study conducted by the Maccabi Research Institute in Tel Aviv claims to have found solid evidence to support a popular theory: that modern life is to blame for this defect.

PDBE (polybrominated diphenyl ethers) have been a popular target in all types of medical research documents in the last two decades, particularly those related to fetal development.

They are a set of chemical substances with powerful properties that interrupt the hormones and, however, since the 1970s have been added to all kinds of products to make them less susceptible to flames.

As time passes, these chemicals rub against the products and accumulate on the surface. In the case of a television, for example, it becomes risky because televisions accumulate dust and that dust can be mixed with PDBE, which humans can inhale.

At one point, most sofas, plastic bottles, carpets and televisions were manufactured with PDBE in some form or form.

As the dangers of the PDBEs have arisen, more restrictions have been placed on how they can be used to limit our exposure. However, avoiding them completely is still complicated. In fact, a study last week showed evidence of PDBE in farmed fish, despite the restrictions of EE. UU And the EU on PDBE in fish farming waters.

To put it mildly, there is still much panic about the subtle ways in which we experience these chemicals, and it is

To assess whether there could be a link between the two, lead authors Shirley Poon, PhD, and Gideon Koren, MD, analyzed 152 mothers of children with hypospadias and 64 controls.

They analyzed PDBE levels in hair, a known non-invasive biomarker for long-term exposure to PDBE.

They also reviewed each child's medical records and interviewed each mother with a questionnaire.

Based on the data they collected, they concluded that "mothers of children with hypospadias were exposed during pregnancy to significantly higher levels of PBDEs."

The results unleashed a wave of reactions from other scientists in the field of pediatrics and pathology.

Many recognized that this is not an unfounded theory. In fact, it occurs a few days after an Australian study claimed to demonstrate a connection between plastics and hypospadias in animals.

But most warned that more needs to be done to confirm this connection if it is valid.

"It is an important question because these chemicals are very common in the family environment, if they are doing harm, it is important that more research be done on the issue," said Professor Jean Golding, Professor Emeritus of Pediatric and Perinatal Epidemiology at the University of Bristol.

But, Professor Golding cautioned, there are many limitations to the study, which have problems with the imbalance between cases of hypospadias and control, and the fact that they did not take the controls and cases from the same population.

Professor Ieuan Highes, professor emeritus of pediatrics at the University of Cambridge, said: "At first glance, the results are convincing of the adverse effects of PBDEs on the environment in the development of the male genitalia before birth. , hypospadias can be associated with a myriad of other factors, among which low birth weight, where the association is strong ".

He added: "The authors' part compensated for this by a more detailed analysis and, although there was still an association with exposure to PBDEs, the link was weaker.

"Genetic causes of hypospadias are also known, as well as the condition that runs in families that was not addressed in this study.

When talking about why PBDEs can affect male development, the authors refer to how these compounds can interfere with the estrogen (female hormone) pathway, but androgens (the male hormone) are essential for male development during a Male programming window pregnancy. & # 39;

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