PVC plastics (like materials used in milk processing) are primary sources of these chemicals, as are perfumes, pesticides, flooring, mini-blinds, shower curtains, and other products made of vinyl. Eating organic and using organic personal care products, as well as using natural products in our homes is a good place to start in avoiding these chemicals.
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By Laura Wright Treadway
September 6, 2011
Let’s talk about boys and their balls. The kind that dangle between legs and not, ideally, the kind you hit with a baseball bat.
I found myself thinking about the cultural and biological importance of baby balls -- and masculinity, really -- one morning not long ago as I lay in bed, scrolling through my e-mail on my smartphone. I’m about seven months pregnant, and like most moms-to-be that I know, I signed up to receive weekly e-mail updates about fetal growth and development.
On this particular day, I skimmed along until I read a passage that went something like this: "Congratulations! If you are having a boy, his testicles are beginning to descend." A baby’s testicles, the e-mail told me, develop inside his abdomen until the last trimester of pregnancy, at which point they begin to move to their rightful place, hanging between his little legs.
Or maybe not, I thought.
Cryptorchidism, the medical term for undescended testicles, is among the most common birth defects in the United States. It affects about 1 in 30 boys, and although it can be corrected surgically, the condition has been linked with fertility troubles later in life. The problems that lead to undescended testicles begin very early on, scientists believe -- possibly during mom’s first trimester, or maybe even earlier, before dad’s little swimmers have even met up with mom’s egg.
Over the past decade, scientists have built an increasingly strong case indicating that some chemicals interfere with male sex hormones in the womb. Cryptorchidism is just one facet of what has become known as "phthalate syndrome," named for a class of industrial chemicals called phthalates, which are used to make such things as the plastic PVC (polyvinyl chloride), as well as many personal care products. Phthalate syndrome has been well documented in rodents, and there is a growing body of evidence suggesting that humans are suffering, too.