The established American habit of drinking water or soda from plastic bottles is also one of the causes of a tendency of many boys and young men to lose their drive and fail to grow up. Leonard Sax, MD, PhD, says the synthetic estrogens found in plastics additives has been emasculating our boys and pushing our girls into precocious puberty.
Five factors contribute to the increasing numbers of underachieving boys and men, according to Sax. One of these is the fact that boys and men are receiving synthetic estrogens as contaminants provided by plastic water and soda bottles, baby bottles, baby toys, and pacifiers. Sax identifies water and soda bottles with a recycling number of 1 as the most prevalent culprits. These items contain BPA and phthalates, synthetic estrogens for softening the plastic.
Scientists are aware that the chemicals are environmental estrogens, and have focused on their tendency to cause cancer. Animal studies pinpointed the amount that would cause cancer in animals, and acceptable dose limits were created from those studies.
Sax asks the question, how does taking estrogen affect a male? In the past decade or two, many of us have been drinking our water from plastic bottles. In fact, the soda manufacturers switched from aluminum cans to plastic bottles. This makes us part of an enormous experiment evaluating the effect of taking estrogen on males. Sidestepping the question of whether it might cause cancer, Sax says he thinks it makes young males placid, and causes delayed puberty.
The result of this, along with four other factors, is affecting a population of men who haven’t grown up, says Sax. He cites some interesting studies. One looks at men in the age group of 35 to 40. Normally, men this age are married. In fact, only 25 years ago, only 8 percent of American men in this age group had never married. But as of 2006 that 8 percent had nearly tripled. It was up to 22 percent and still rising rapidly. (He cites Eduardo Porter and Michelle O’Donnell, “Facing Middle Age with No Degree and No Wife,” New York Times, Aug. 6, 2006.)
Sax cited more studies. One showed that the fraction of men under 35 still living at home has doubled over the past 30 years. Another showed that 36 percent of all babies born in the U.S. in 2004 were born to unmarried women. The statistic holds true for all demographic groups.
Congress is somewhat aware of the threat to our children. It directed the Consumer Product Safety Commission to ban phthalates from children’s products as of August, 2009. This includes baby bottles and pacifiers.
However, the Food and Drug Administration controls food and drink and its containers. It has decided to believe 11 industry-funded studies showing that BPA is safe, in small amounts. But there are 104 independent studies that show it is a hazard, according to Catherine Zandonella, MPH, in the online magazine The Green Guide.
A safe consumer will avoid plastic bottles, especially ones where the beverage has been allowed to get warm (allowing the chemical to leach into the beverage more quickly). The acid in soda performs this function as well. Especially look for plastic bottles with a recycling number of 1, 3, or 7. These are the main culprits. In addition, don’t warm your food in plastic containers.
The epidemic of men and boys who don’t grow up has four other causes as well, as seen by Sax:
- Education system changes. Kindergarten has become a very frustrating time for boys, who are expected to sit down and learn to read. They aren’t ready, and as a result they learn to hate school.
- Video games
- ADHD medications
- The lack of cultural traditions emphasizing transition to manhood