The great emasculator

LAST UPDATED: 3 Apr, 2009 @ 10:31
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The great emasculator

Spanish men lose their mojo as pollution plays havoc with the male gender

“THE tragedy of machismo is that a man is never quite man enough,” said feminist Germaine Greer. And never did a statement ring truer than in Spain, where men used to be men and women knew their place.

You read correctly. Hombres today in parts of the country are suffering somewhat of a gender crisis after male fertility rates fell and instances of homosexuality in Spanish fish rose.

To compound this hispanic emasculation, male shellfish are being born with female genitalia. And the reasons? The combined effects of industrialization and pollution, according to two recently published studies.

It is news that there is a decrease in semen quality that will cause los machos most concern, however.

Research by the National Association of Assisted Reproduction found that almost 60 per cent of young Spanish men have less than average spunk, which can lead to fertility problems.

Deterioration

The study suggested that this seminal decrease is determined in the womb due to the pollution found in Spain’s industrial heartlands of the Basque Country, Catalunya and Valencia.

The investigators believe that atmospheric contamination from pesticides, disinfectants and other chemicals used in the manufacture of carpets, tin cans and mattresses is to blame.

The pollution affects the fetus’ hormones during the formation of the genitalia. This leads to an alteration in the composition of the sperm cells.

Fewer than 80 per cent of the men surveyed had 20 million sperm cells per ejaculation – the average according to the World Health Organisation.

“We asked the 1,200 men who partook in this study where their mothers lived during the early stages of pregnancy. Those who resided in areas of heavy industry gave birth to sons with less than average semen.

“There is no coincidence that the quality of semen had deteriorated in Valencia, Catalunya and the Pais Vasco. These are three regions in which pollution has increased over the past 50 years,” said Manuel Elbaile, the leader of the investigation which appears in the latest edition of science journal, Andrologia.

The sperm of only 50 per cent of the men had adequate mobility while around 20 per cent ejaculated less than the average volume of 2 millilitres.

The study backs 2007 research by Granada University that found workers in the plastic greenhouses of Almería had fertility problems due to the pesticides used to protect the crops of fruit and vegetables.

Two sexes

The finger of blame is also being pointed at pollution after scientists discovered high incidences of homosexuality in marine life off the coast of northern Spain.

Chemicals present in the Bay of Biscay are not only affecting sexual behaviour, but also producing genetic alterations in certain species, according to claims.

The team from the University of the Basque Country found that the majority of male oysters and mussels in Urdaibai estuary have both male and female reproductive organs – a condition known as hermaphroditism.

They also found that many male fish were engaging in homosexuality.

“There are many chemical compounds in the water at Urdaibai, such as derivatives of detergents, cosmetics and petrol, that we believe could influence the growth, behaviour and reproduction of marine species,” said team leader Miren Cajaraville.

The study is due to be published later this year.

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