Estrogen alert, tell hubby!
Estrogen Alert By Alison R.G. van Diggelen “This is the ONE!” My husband exclaimed while reading the wad of ads in Sunday’s paper. “Listen to this: six point two five horsepower, high performance, it’s even got an attachable blower,” he said, brandishing the ad for a monster shop vac. Not since we bought our first SUV had I seen my husband so animated about a purchase. “Do you know they even vacuum up water?” he added, eyes popping. I furrowed my brow. Now that’s a very useful quality I thought, instead of emptying the bath in the normal fashion, Frank can vacuum it dry. “Will it take off the ring around the bath and do the laundry at the same time?” I asked with a smirk. He rolled his eyes at me. But it mystified me. Why was my husband getting so excited at the prospect of buying a…er, um.. a vacuum cleaner? “It’s just a dumb vacuum cleaner,” I wanted to say,” What’s the big deal?” But years of parenting has taught me that a kid with a new toy crush doesn’t like to be teased. Then, when he told me the brand name for these vacuums: a loud guffaw escaped me. Ridgid. Can you believe it? I bet he wasn’t the only one getting excited about having one. And I marveled once again at the profound wit of marketing people. I queried my girlfriends, “Is your husband taking a growing interest in household cleanliness, polished countertops, kid’s literature, special diets, and window treatments?” I found in my neighborhood a startling growth in men’s interest in what was once considered “the woman’s realm.” “I don’t want to call it his feminine side,” said Audrey, referring to the endearing way her husband sometimes cries when reading the kids bedtime stories. Another friend Lily, escaped what she describes as “the machoism” of her native Peru to come to the States. She became endeared to her American husband when he confessed that his favorite color was purple. “Purple! Just imagine!” she said, “In Peru, back then, a man would never be found in the kitchen, NO WAY!” This kinder, gentler side is something we women tend to encourage in our spouses (hey hon’, can you help me with the washing up tonight?), but recent scientific evidence suggests we could be helping them change in more alarming ways. Here’s what I read recently online. Over a three-year period, scientists in Canada played a nasty trick on some unsuspecting male fish in a remote lake by putting birth control pills into the lake. They found that many of the male fish produced eggs and all became “feminized”. The scary fact is that the level of estrogen was approximately that found in a typical US urban waterway, thanks to residue from birth control pills and hormone replacement therapy (in women’s urine). Karen Kidd, the study’s chief researcher said, “It’s feminization…It’s enough to be concerned about what’s going on in the bigger picture.” The journal Environmental Health Perspectives reported in June that men living in rural areas exposed to pesticides (that act like estrogen) had lower sperm counts. Who knows if it’s conclusive but it’s certainly worth more research. So are men just getting more comfortable about showing their softer side or is there something more sinister going on? Is it time the government countered this phenomenon and encouraged more macho behavior? Maybe that’s why there’s a whopping write off for buying a Hummer? Perhaps the government also needs to create a Department of Homeland Manliness (under the aegis of the Dept of Homeland Security, and led by Tommy Franks). Or does it behoove the media to help in this national crisis, by making more Rambo movies? Thankfully the scientists have another solution. Humble bacteria may be the panacea. Canadian scientist Karen Kidd suggests that prolonged bacteria treatment in sewer plants may allow the estrogen to be consumed (by the bacteria) before it re-circulates. Meantime, I’m encouraging my husband all I can with his new shop vac, but he’s still mystified by those large metal boxes that produce fresh smelling laundry. Ladies, we still have a way to go. Alison van Diggelen is editor of siliconmom.com. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org © siliconmom