canadian partnership for

Boys at Risk                                         Cancer

are similar to dioxin and PCBs including the fire           Testicular Dysgenesis Syndrome
proofing chemicals or flame ret...
Fathers’ Exposures and                                   For more information on the chemicals you may
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A Father’S Day Report – Men, Boys And Environmental Health Threats


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A Father’S Day Report – Men, Boys And Environmental Health Threats

  1. 1. canadian partnership for children’s health & environment A Father’s Day Report — Men, Boys and Environmental Health Threats Summary Report June 15, 2007 Summary of A Father’s Day Report — Men, Boys and Environmental Health Threats 4
  2. 2. Boys at Risk Cancer Although cancer is rare among all children, more The health of all children living in Canada is at boys get cancer than girls. Among young adults risk from exposure to environmental hazards. (age 20–44) several cancers are on the rise, Hundreds of toxic substances, such as air including testicular cancer. Concern arises over pollutants and pesticides are known, or suspected parents’ exposures before conception or during of contributing to adverse child health outcomes. pregnancy. Childhood cancers are associated with Much remains to be understood about exposures to pesticides, solvents, petroleum environmental links to adverse health impacts. In products, motor vehicle exhaust, benzene and the meantime, it is better to be safe than sorry. other pollutants. Much remains unknown. Since Much can be done to reduce or prevent cancer involves problems with cell division, it is exposures. logical that exposures during times of rapid cell division (especially in the womb) likely pose the For a number of these health outcomes, boys greatest risk. seem to be particularly at risk. Whether we look at cancer, asthma, birth defects, or learning and Asthma behavioural disorders, the boys are often faring worse than the girls. In the past 20 years there has been a dramatic rise in asthma in children. Less well known is that The reasons that boys appear to be at greater risk boys are worse off. More boys have asthma than for these conditions are largely unknown, but girls and more are hospitalized for it. Boys are several reasons have been suggested, including born with smaller airways, relative to their lung increased exposure and genetic, hormonal and size, than girls. They also tend to have more physiological differences between the sexes. allergies which can contribute to their developing asthma. Asthma is a complex disease. Evidence Male vulnerability to environmental hazards is shows that it results from interactions between an emerging area of scientific research and public genetics and environmental triggers. Such triggers education. This Father’s Day report summarizes include indoor and outdoor air pollution and the information currently available on the rates may also include some pesticides and chemicals of diseases and disabilities of boys compared to in household cleaning products. girls and what is known about the environmental links to these health impacts. We need to know more about the reasons why boys appear to be Learning and Developmental Disorders more vulnerable. In the meantime, both parents, and Disabilities and all members of society, can take action to prevent exposure to toxic chemicals. Very large numbers of children in Canada have learning and behavioural disorders or disabilities. The apparent increase in autism in recent years is of concern. For unknown reasons, boys are at greater risk. More boys than girls have autism, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), learning disabilities, Tourette’s syndrome, cerebral palsy, and dyslexia. For autism and ADHD, boys outnumber the girls by up to four to one. We know that children’s brains can be damaged by lead, mercury, arsenic, radiation, dioxins, PCBs, solvents and some pesticides. Many more chemicals may be toxic to the brain but much is unknown. Of special concern are chemicals that Photo credit: Loren Vanderlinden Summary of A Father’s Day Report — Men, Boys and Environmental Health Threats 1
  3. 3. are similar to dioxin and PCBs including the fire Testicular Dysgenesis Syndrome proofing chemicals or flame retardants known as PBDEs. Boys’ brains may be more vulnerable for Scientists describe a group of impacts on the several reasons. There are genetic differences, male reproductive system under the term slower rates of maturity and greater vulnerability Testicular Dysgenesis Syndrome (TDS). TDS to physical injury. Brain development and the includes the birth defects cryptorchidism and pattern of hormone production in the womb are hypospadias, as well as poor semen quality (i.e. different for boys than girls. Recent studies of reduced sperm count, more abnormal sperm), adults reveal gender differences in brain structure, lower fertility and perhaps also testicular cancer. function and chemistry. These differences may Scientists suspect chemical exposures during make boys more vulnerable to chemical pregnancy, specifically during the time when the exposures. As well, there are a larger number of male reproductive system is developing may be cell divisions in males during fetal development causing these related impacts. which increases the chances of genetic errors occurring. Hormones of the endocrine system play an Birth Defects important role in development of the fetus. Birth defects occur in about two to Scientists suspect that TDS three per cent of births in Canada results from chemicals with boys affected more often than that can disrupt these girls. About half of birth defects hormones. Called affecting boys include “endocrine disruptors,” cryptorchidism (undescended scientists have shown testicles) and hypospadias (a these effects (mostly defect of the male urinary tract). through animal studies Stillbirths and miscarriages — but also in some human which often can be due to birth studies) for a few defects — also seem to be more chemicals including PCBs, Photo credit: Mark Surman common in male babies. dioxins and some organochlorine pesticides Many factors can contribute to birth defects such as DDT. Evidence is growing about other including genetics, infection during pregnancy, chemicals found in everyday consumer products and environmental factors. Much remains such as: phthalates (found in many personal care completely unknown. Interaction of multiple products, food packaging and other products), factors is likely. We know that certain chemicals Bisphenol A (also in food packaging and many can impact development, including lead, other plastic products), brominated flame mercury, radiation, and PCBs contaminated by retardants or PBDEs (used in many different dioxins and furans. Scientists suspect many more products containing foam or fabric as well as including some pesticides, organic solvents, and numerous electronic products) and surfactants some air pollutants. such as nonylphenols (used in detergents, degreasers, paints, etc.). Development of the male reproductive system has more steps and is more complex than for the Endocrine disruptors may also have played a role female system. As a result there are more chances in the declining male to female sex ratio in many for error. Rapid cell growth creates a higher risk of industrialized nations — that is, fewer male incorporating errors during development than children are born every year. Between 1970 and cells growing more slowly. Where defects 1990, there was a decline of 2.2 males per 1,000 originate in an X chromosome, females have a live births in Canada. chance to “neutralize” this defect with another X chromosome, while males have only one X chromosome. Summary of A Father’s Day Report — Men, Boys and Environmental Health Threats 2
  4. 4. Fathers’ Exposures and For more information on the chemicals you may be exposed to on the job, and what you can do their Children’s Health about them, contact the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety at 1-800-668- Many studies show links between fathers’ 4284 or visit exposures to chemicals and health problems in their children. These include low birth weight, At home, it is important to: spontaneous abortion, birth defects, cancer and • Remove shoes at the door developmental delays. Chemical exposures for • Wet dust, vacuum and ventilate your home men may directly affect sperm quality. Chemicals regularly can also be carried in seminal fluid. Workplace • Minimize your use of toxic chemicals: buy chemicals may be brought home by the father personal care products and cleaning products exposing mother, fetus or child. Occupations of that are less toxic. See particular concern include those that involve the for a list of safe alternatives use of pesticides, solvents, petroleum products, • If your hobbies involve the use of hazardous paints, anesthetics, metals or radiation. substances make sure these are not practiced in the living areas of the house, that your workspace is kept well ventilated, and that you wear protective clothing Playing It Safe: Childproofing Tips for For many more useful tips, see Child Health and the Environment — A Primer and the Playing It Safe Fathers brochure available at As a father, you can take steps to minimize the toxic substances that you, your partner and your And in the community, as fathers you can: children may be exposed to. You can do this at • Become aware of the chemicals your children work, at home and in your community. may be exposed to in childcare facilities, Remember that these tips are just as important schools, playgrounds, parks, libraries, sports for mothers. fields and arenas. Ask what products are being used — particularly cleaning products At work, become aware of possible environmental and pesticides — and whether they have been and occupational hazards. If you work with evaluated for health impacts. Find out if chemicals, or in construction or renovation, make alternative products or approaches have been sure you take all necessary precautions to protect considered. yourself and your family: • Start or support campaigns to reduce • Wear protective clothing and equipment (e.g., pesticide use, promote energy efficiency, and masks, gloves, or other protections) reduce greenhouse gas emissions, etc. • Wash your hands when possible, especially • Voice your concerns to your elected officials before eating — many issues require policy change at the • Change your clothes and shower when you municipal, provincial or federal level. get home if facilities are not available at your workplace For more information on ways you can get • Wash work clothes separately from other clothes involved and steps that you can take to ensure a • Keep work equipment outside if possible (in healthy future for you and your children visit the the tool shed or garage for example) Canadian Partnership for Children’s Health and Environment at For the full Father’s Day report summarized here, please visit the CPCHE website at Summary of A Father’s Day Report — Men, Boys and Environmental Health Threats 3