New Gender-Bending Poison Fear for Young; Chemicals Made Girls and Boys Swap Sex Roles at Play

Article excerpt

Byline: TIM UTTON

WORRYING new evidence about the risks to children posed by 'gender-bending' chemicals has been uncovered by scientists.

Tiny amounts altered the behaviour of young children - causing girls and boys to 'swap' sex preferences in games and hobbies.

Girls preferred playing with guns and pretending to be soldiers, whereas boys opted to play with dolls and dress up in female clothes.

The evidence is particularly disturbing because the children were only exposed to levels of PCBs - polychlorinated biphenyls - and dioxins within supposedly 'normal' limits, typically found in food and the environment.

The findings of the Dutch study follow other research in recent years showing that such chemicals can turn wildlife species, including fish and birds, into hermaphrodites.

The latest research is part of a longterm study into the effects of PCBs and dioxins in children.

Scientists based at Erasmus University in Rotterdam measured the levels of the chemicals in the blood of 207 mothers in their final month of pregnancy.

They also measured the levels in umbilical blood at birth, and in breast milk two weeks after birth, to determine exposure in the womb.

The parents were later asked to record patterns of play in the first seven years of their children's lives.

Girls who had been exposed to slightly higher than average levels of PCBs - measured in the blood and breast milk - were more likely to engage in masculine 'rough and tumble' play, with guns, swords, cars and machines as toys. …