Lawmakers Urged to Act on Concerns over Testicular Cancer, Lower Sperm Counts, and Altered Genital Development
(PORTLAND) There is a growing awareness of the effects of toxic chemicals on Maine’s young men, especially those who want to start a family some day. But talking about testicular cancer and low sperm counts can be difficult, so a group of young men from around Maine gathered in Portland to unveil a humorous but educational sketch that they hope will spur lawmakers and their peers to take action. Using the backdrop of sports fans watching a ballgame, the young men exposed the many dangerous chemicals that are in products used every day and how they put men’s health, especially their reproductive health, at risk.
Steve Taylor of the Environmental Health Strategy Center acted as the “toxics referee” and threw penalty flags at the products used by the young sports fans. Taylor’s first flag was against bisphenol-A, also known as BPA, a sealant and plastic hardener that is found in water bottles, food cans, and even credit card receipts. Taylor barked, “Personal foul on BPA for causing obesity!” The young men expressed surprise and concern about how to avoid exposure to BPA. Taylor responded, “There is no rulebook for getting these chemicals tested for safety and no scorecard to give consumers good information. When you’re up against the chemical industry, the best play you’ve got is a hail mary into the end zone.”
The next penalty was called on perflourinated chemicals, or PFC’s, for causing cancer, especially testicular cancer. Ryan Tipping-Spitz of the Maine People’s Alliance expressed exasperation and said, “Obesity? Cancer? Figuring out where these chemicals are sounds more frustrating than being a Sox fan this season. Can’t Congress come off the bench and do something? Can’t we fix this system so we don’t have to worry about chemical industry spit balls?”
But it was talk of “hormone havoc” that got everyone’s attention. Taylor’s penalty was “pass interference” and his target was personal care products, like aftershave, deodorant, and cologne that contain phthalates, a chemical that mimics estrogen and threatens reproductive health, especially in males. Phthalates can cause lower sperm counts, small or abnormal testes, and altered genital development.
Andrew Richter of Boys to Men responded with frustration, stating, “Most people assume that the products we use every day and the chemicals they contain have been tested for safety. Obviously, that’s not true. We’re here today to say that Maine’s young men and future fathers are not interested in being part of this irresponsible chemical experiment.”
William Brennan of Planned Parenthood of Northern New England was also disgusted with the news. He added, “This is outrageous. No one should have to worry about toxic chemicals when they take a shower, eat dinner, or watch a ball game with their friends.”
Matt Prindiville of the Natural Resources Council of Maine called on lawmakers to take action. He stated, “We can rewrite the rulebook on toxic chemicals, but it will take a team effort. We need three important things from Maine policymakers. First, we need Maine’s Department of Environmental Protection to get BPA, PFC’s, phthalates, and other chemicals that harm men’s reproductive health out of the game and out of our lives. Second, we need Maine lawmakers to make sure the Kid-Safe Products Law has the resources it needs so it can make a difference with our generation, not decades down the road. And third, we need Senators Snowe and Collins to help overhaul the federal system, so these chemicals get tested and we know the score, before they show up on store shelves.”
Maine has immediate opportunities at both the state and national levels to protect young men’s reproductive health from dangerous chemicals in everyday products. This year, Maine’s Department of Environmental Protection will name the first “Priority Chemicals” targeted for immediate action under the Kid-Safe Products Law. And last month the national Safe Chemicals Act was introduced in Congress.
The young men videotaped the event and intend to share it widely. Calling it a “game plan to beat hormone havoc”, they hope lawmakers share their concerns over toxic threats to male reproduction and take action right away.
The Alliance for a Clean and Healthy Maine is a coalition of over 50 public health, environmental, and public interest organizations dedicated to phasing out long-lived toxic chemicals that build up in the food web and in our bodies.
This production was created and produced with the help of the following organizations:
Boys to Men
Environmental Health Strategy Center
Maine People’s Alliance
Natural Resources Council of Maine
Planned Parenthood of Northern New England