Over the past three decades, we have been subjected to increasing numbers of people with confusion about their sexual identity. Could this be the result of a biological phenomenon? Some research from seven years ago suggests that we could be mutating ourselves:
Atrazine, one of the worldâ€™s most widely used pesticides, wreaks havoc with the sex lives of adult male frogs, emasculating three-quarters of them and turning one in 10 into females, according to a new study by University of California, Berkeley, biologists.
…â€œThese kinds of problems, like sex-reversing animals skewing sex ratios, are much more dangerous than any chemical that would kill off a population of frogs,â€ he said. â€œIn exposed populations, it looks like there are frogs breeding but, in fact, the population is being very slowly degraded by the introduction of these altered animals.â€
…More and more research, however, is showing that atrazine interferes with endocrine hormones, such as estrogen and testosterone â€“ in fish, amphibians, birds, reptiles, laboratory rodents and even human cell lines at levels of parts per billion. Recent studies also found a possible link between human birth defects and low birth weight and atrazine exposure in the womb.
The question is not one pollutant, but the total weight of pollutants to which we are exposed. If we add up the concentrations of all of them, we will find ourselves in a bath of toxins that can affect our sex organs and reproductive cycles. This in turn can lead to gender-bending confusion:
â€œThese male frogs are missing testosterone and all the things that testosterone controls, including sperm. So their fertility is as low as 10 percent in some cases, and that is only if we isolate those animals and pair them with females,â€ he said. â€œIn an environment where they are competing with unexposed animals, they have zero chance of reproducing.â€
The 10 percent or more that turn from males into females â€“ something not known to occur under natural conditions in amphibians â€“ can successfully mate with male frogs but, because these females are genetically male, all their offspring are male.
â€œWhen we grow these guys up, depending on the family, we will get anywhere from 10 to 50 percent females,â€ Hayes said. â€œIn a population, the genetically male females can decrease or wipe out a population just because they skew sex ratios so badly.â€
That happens in the first generation. What about successive generations? As the imbalances continue, it would be likely that there would be more androgynous or gender-confused individuals, sort of like we see in the media now.