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Pollution Is Shrinking Human Penises And Making Men Infertile, Warns Scientist

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If you weren’t already disturbed by the countless impacts of climate change, your pollution-induced shrinking penis might be the wake-up call you need. 

According to research by Dr. Shanna Swan in her new book Count Down, the climate crisis is infringing on another human right — the right to an average-sized (read: large) penis.

Swan is a professor of public health and medicine at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York. Her concern is largely isolated to the impacts of plastic production on male genitalia and reproductive organs. 

Her evidence comes from a study that examines 4 decades worth of sperm levels among men in Western countries.

Swan raises concerns about the use of microplastics in everything from shaving cream to water bottles and questions how our exposure to polluting chemicals is manifesting in reproductive health issues. 

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Plastic is creating genital deformities and stunted growth — yes, shrinking human penises.

Most of the intersection between climate change and changing penis sizes ties back to phthalates.

These are chemicals used when manufacturing plastics that impact the hormone-producing endocrine system.  

While still in the womb, male babies are exposed to phthalates that make them more likely to be born with shrunken genitals.

Phthalates are employed industrially to make plastic more flexible, but they're being transmitted into foods, toys, pharmaceuticals, and just about anything humans come into contact with regularly. One result is stunted physical development in our nether regions. 

A study on the impacts of phthalates on rats first revealed to Swan how the chemicals impact newborns. 

For Swan, this is an imperative issue that is already having disastrous effects on our physical health. 

The book offers an analysis of the research in greater depth as well as guidance on how, if possible, to avoid harmful phthalates.

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Pollution could make men unable to produce sperm within the next two decades. 

Dr Swan believes that the impacts of phthalates and the rapidly decreasing fertility rate mean that most men will be unable to produce viable sperm by 2045.

In the body, phthalates mimic the hormone estrogen. This alters the natural production of hormones in the human body, inhibiting regular sexual development in infants and adults.

But the research is not the first of its kind. Similar studies into the impacts of air pollution have linked climate change to female infertility

Some scientists say airborne pollution particles are known to cause inflammation in the body, which could damage egg and sperm production. 

A recent study in a fertility clinic in China linked exposure to air pollution with a lower number of maturing eggs in the ovaries in 600 women. 

The long-term impacts of climate change are becoming more apparent. 

Climate change is happening at an increasingly rapid pace, meaning the research around its impacts often lags behind and prevents any meaningful mitigation of the risks. 

Swan’s research is among many similar studies that only reveal to us the impact of pollution after it's too late to reverse course. 

Ahead of Earth Day, this research reminds us of the urgency of climate action both for global preservation and, apparently, sexual preservation. 

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Alice Kelly is a writer living in Brooklyn, New York. Catch her covering all things social justice, news, and entertainment.