Monday, November 05, 2007

Are Boys an Endangered Species?

Half as many boys as girls are being born in some places around the world—and pollution is the prime suspect.

Among the Chippewas of the Aamjiwnaang First Nation community living on the shores of the St. Clair River outside Sarnia, Ontario, tribal leaders were puzzling over a variety of health problems—from asthma to cancer to miscarriages—plaguing their families. The Aamjiwnaang—the name means “at the spawning stream”—were shaken when they realized that there was a dramatic disproportion of girls to boys among them....

One of those worried is Devra Davis, director of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute’s Center for Environmental Oncology and professor of epidemiology at the university’s Graduate School of Public Health. Davis is the lead author of a June 2007 article in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives that found statistically significant reductions in male births and increased fetal deaths in Japan and among Caucasians in the United States since 1970. She and her co-authors note that this decline represents 135,000 fewer white males in the U.S. and 127,000 fewer males in Japan stretching over the past three decades than the normative rate would expect.

Read the rest.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's Bush's fault!

6:04 PM, November 05, 2007  
Blogger SGT Ted said...

The only way this will get any press attention is if global warming can be blamed somehow.

Now if it were females that were being affected, we'd be seeing this above the fold in the NYT.

6:18 PM, November 05, 2007  
Blogger Acad Ronin said...

On the other hand, in India and China, each with populations in excess of 1bn people, there are areas where the ratio of births is 5 boy babies to every 4 girl babies. That would suggest that it will all work out.

6:47 PM, November 05, 2007  
Blogger ravenshrike said...

Keine scheisse. Of course this is because boys are, at least in infancy and before, more fragile than girls. If I remember correctly it's because they're farther off of the basic human template, which is "naturally" female. Moreover, any teratogenic mutations will hit boys first because they have less redundancy. Damned inefficient Y chromosome.

7:38 PM, November 05, 2007  
Blogger Ignorance is Bliss said...

...this decline represents 135,000 fewer white males in the U.S. and 127,000 fewer males in Japan

...women and children hardest hit.

7:47 PM, November 05, 2007  
Blogger BobH said...

to acad ronin:

The conventional wisdom, which I believe in this case, is that the discrepancy in those countries is because sons are more highly valued than daughters. At least one anthropological study attributes this preference to the fact that son's labor in agricultural societies is more productive, earlier, than daughters. This preference has become embedded in the norms of these societies and, consequently, a higher percentage of female fetuses is being aborted and/or a higher percentage of female infants is being killed.

8:46 PM, November 05, 2007  
Blogger Unknown said...

It bothers me that boys are referred to as a different species from girls, and that boys' lower birth rate is once again associated with some sort of female superiority. This articles refers to boys as the "weaker sex" without hesitation, as if referring to a group of people as "weaker" than another is a routine an obvious thing to do.

Boys are being effected negatively by environmental pathogens? They must be the weaker sex!

9:26 PM, November 05, 2007  
Blogger Unknown said...

I think this article is primarily an attempt to inject gender politics into how people think about pollution as it effects all humans. If you can somehow categorize males as being naturally "weaker" then a fall in birth rates in males and not females from environmental pathogens isn't as great of a concern. If men's increased death rate were not just a result of their innate "weakness" then problems for men might be concerns for women too (who seem to be a distinct unaffected group).

When I studied biology in college I was told it was impossible to prove the superiority of a human over a jelly fish, let alone another human. As it is, males are referred to by both the article and those who commented on the article as the "weaker sex", perhaps more often than they refer to the environmental pathogens this articles was "supposed to" bring attention to. It is because boys and men are "weaker sex" that they are more effected than girls, not because the pathogens just happen to be worse for boys' endocrine system.

It is troubling to me that thanks to this article and ones like it (ex. "Are Boys the Weaker Sex?" US News & World Report), it is now common to hear men and boys categorically referred to as the "weaker sex". This article is rhetoric disguised as science and does little to highlight a problem
we all need to be more concerned with; the effect on our health of the seemingly limitless number of environmental toxins we are exposed to every day as a result of our own pollution.

9:58 PM, November 05, 2007  
Blogger Joe said...

This is a very shabby article. Researchers have found some weak correlations and are making fantastic extrapolations from it. Perhaps some of the conclusions are valid, but by overreaching, probably for dramatic effect, they are doing science and public health a disservice.

10:23 PM, November 05, 2007  
Blogger Eric said...

The stories look suspiciously anecdotal to me. Before blaming the environment I'd want to see some confirmation in wider human populations, and maybe some animal population studies.

11:16 PM, November 05, 2007  
Blogger Unknown said...

I'm not that far from the reserve in question: They face a serious shortfall of males.

I agree with others too. The 'males are weaker' attitude is so widespread and so openly sexist that it does not bode well for my grandkids when they reach my age.

We could also add in the VERY serious shortfall of research money for male topics. The male percentage of research money is around 30% and falling fairly fast. Thus, there may well be no way of fixing these problems as the money which could fix them goes to girls.

3:24 AM, November 06, 2007  
Blogger Derve Swanson said...

Don't fret helen.

When you're done helping everyone see men and boys as victims here, the Chinese will have an abundance of strong male stock for breeding purposes.

Because why would you want to breed victims anyway? Too much of that going on already.

6:24 AM, November 06, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Looks as if women will simply have to be included as inductees should the draft ever be reinstated.

Surely, having so many of them won't be harmful, should many be lost in times of war.

Men will be perceived more like the diamonds we truly are, as time goes on.

Leaning back, now, twiddling my thumbs.

7:08 AM, November 06, 2007  
Blogger DADvocate said...

Sperm counts for males in industriaized countries has been decreasing for many years. It would seem reasonable that male sperm may be more effected by whatever causes than female sperm.

11:23 AM, November 06, 2007  
Blogger SGT Ted said...

I see bigot Mary is back

12:01 PM, November 06, 2007  
Blogger Serket said...

This is surprising, because I always thought more boys were born.

br549, my uncle thinks an all-female army would be better than an all-male army. I believe he got this idea from a fiction book.

12:07 PM, November 06, 2007  
Blogger Dragon Hawk said...

Serket, he might have gotten it from a short story written by Isaac Asimov titled Shaw Guido G.

As to boys being the weaker sex, I thought it was terrible to refer to girls as the weaker sex (generally, females are weaker than maies) so why the sudden acceptance of calling boys the weaker sex?

It'd be nice if we stopped picking on each other for political points, and just stuck with science, and if there is a problem that is killing off male fetuses, maybe, I dunno, fixing it?

12:49 PM, November 06, 2007  
Blogger Unknown said...

"Sperm counts for males in industrialized countries has been decreasing for many years. It would seem reasonable that male sperm may be more effected by whatever causes than female sperm."

Seems to be true. But, men still produce millions and millions of sperm per ejaculation. Sperm counts are less, but still more than sufficient to bread.

There could be a very simple and benign reason for the drop in sperm counts. I can think of two, most of us take hot showers daily and most of us spend a considerable amount of time sitting every day. Both activities would decrease sperm counts by raising the temperature inside the testes for too long each day.

I read an article not too long ago about truck drivers, because they spend so much time sitting they are having trouble conceiving. Sitting all the time never allows the developing sperm to cool off.

2:19 PM, November 06, 2007  
Blogger Unknown said...

Another consideration...
A mother's body does an incredible job of protecting the developing fetus from many, but not all, environmental pathogens. A woman's eggs are fully developed before she is born. All a woman's eggs develop while protected by the mother from many toxins. A man's sperm develop and are produced throughout life, their development will be effected by whatever toxins a man comes across daily.

2:37 PM, November 06, 2007  
Blogger DADvocate said...

Both activities would decrease sperm counts by raising the temperature inside the testes for too long each day.

Bicyclists have this problem also. Some have to quit riding in order to be effectively fertile.

Here's a link to many causes of low sperm count, including: " Some chemicals that affect sperm production men are : Oxygen-Free Radicals, Estrogen emulation pesticidal chemicals (DDT, aldrin, dieldrin, PCPs, dioxins, and furans ), plastic softening chemicals like Phthalates, hydrocarbons (ethylbenzene, benzene, toluene, and xylene)"

3:12 PM, November 06, 2007  
Blogger TMink said...

M, calling males weaker refers to our having more problems with genetic and birth defects. Along with that, boys tend to die more due to more dangerous activities. Accidental deaths are more of a problem for boys than girls.

Perhaps as compensation, in the past slightly more boys were born than girls, making the gender numbers more even given male mortality.

So these are biological issues rather than ideological ones. But thanks for being aware of the possible bias. Anyone who said women were the weaker sex never met my wife or daughters.


3:24 PM, November 06, 2007  
Blogger Feanaro said...

Ignoring any gender biasing issues, I have to wonder about something here. Okay, so the Natives around this "Chemical Valley" are giving birth to few boys and many girls. Scientist comes along and says "Ah, must be pollution." Then he founds out that it happens in the Artic Circle, far away from any tritely named pollution centers... and says pollution is STILL the answer.

They tell us that, of course, they have linked pollution to this problem beyond a shadow of a doubt... but they don't know how it causes this problem. "PCBS, DDTs, and other persistent organic pollutants are known from research to possibly[damnit man, you either know it or you don't] trigger male and female hormone signals incorrectly" is the best thing offered. Which doesn't explain why it only affects males.

4:58 PM, November 06, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

They've never met my daughters either, tmink!
serket, imagine for a moment platoon upon platoon of female combatants. They all share the same barracks. Within a short amount of time, they will all be on the same cycle.

Now.....imagine those same platoons of women, all with PMS at the same time, armed with M16's and HAND GRENADES. Weaker sex? Who in the hell sold women on the idea they are the weaker sex?

5:53 PM, November 06, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

serket, I left you a post on another string on this blog, not realizing I had moved (somehow) off this string.

Easier though, google "The World Fact Book" ( It contains gobs of information on every known country in the world at this time. Birth /death rates, male / female ratio, plus about everything else one would want to know if say, doing a report on a country for a social studies report or something. Interesting.

6:51 PM, November 06, 2007  
Blogger Unknown said...

iirc, perhaps counter-intuitively for some, survival of girls has traditionally outpaced that of boys amongst those mothers who, correctly or otherwise, perceive themselves as stuck on the bottom of a stratified society.

Rich families in history have favored having many sons who in turn have many wives and many sons to whom to bequeath the family riches; ergo, the way for the poor to give their own descendants a leg up is to have excess daughters who can be married off to the rich boys; excess poor boys are more likely to die wifeless and childless and so represent a "bad investment" in genetic continuity It's a historical trend generally underreported these days as it's the wrong "narrative" for some.

p.s. Someone above mentioned male sperm counts: prob best to disregard those studies as they were shlocky: for ex, they did not correct for freq of sex, even tho it was a lot higher amongst the sampling of modern males than amongst the orig baseline group of a previous generation.

7:25 PM, November 06, 2007  
Blogger Serket said...

tmink, welcome back!

br549, having an all-women's army would definitely even out the life expectancy. I wouldn't know how many of them would get pregnant while in the military, but that would definitely be a burden. Some of them might even get pregnant to avoid fighting. I also wonder if women are less likely to volunteer for the military than men.

I have been to the CIA factbook and it is interesting. I just went to it yesterday looking for religion information on Albania.

1:16 PM, November 07, 2007  
Blogger TMink said...

Thanks serket! I got a little bored with the rancor, but missed the discussion and posts. Work gives me a large enough dose of man's inhumanity to man (I do a lot of work with people who were sexually abused)and not enough civilized discussion. So when the comments are being held at a civil level, I really enjoy you all.


4:12 PM, November 07, 2007  
Blogger Bruce Hayden said...

I agree with some of the previous posters. Thanks to some very questionable population control measures by the Chinese and Indians, we are facing having significantly more males than females in the two most populous countries in the world. This has potentially dire consequences as to world peace.

The problem is what happens to all those excess males who fail to find a mate. The typical answer is either they run in male packs, terrorizing the rest of the country, or their aggression is turned outwards. As this is more likely to reduce crime, etc., it is likely the preferred strategy.

In a previous era, China and India would have been stuck with their excess males. But now male order spouses from the other side of the world are not uncommon. So, the logical thing to do is for the Indians and Chinese acquire mail order brides for these groups, or provide mail order husbands for them.

Of course, another traditional solution to having too many women in a population is polygamy. This is supposedly one of the reasons that the Mormons adopted the practice during the 19th Century and gave it up when the male and female populations equalized (as well as acquiring statehood).

3:34 AM, November 10, 2007  
Blogger Robert said...

"Sperm counts are less, but still more than sufficient to bread"

Hey now, keep your sperm out of my bread, bro!

5:05 AM, November 11, 2007  
Blogger Pookie bear shoot em' up said...

What an idiot lady.
miss, you are a lesbian

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