Are Non-Stick Frying Pans Shrinking Your Penis?
Studies suggest your mother may have shorted you a half-inch on your mini-me if you were exposed to a chemical known as PFCs while in the womb.
PFCs are believed to interfere with male hormones and can lead to sexual organs being significantly shorter and thinner. PFCs is short for perfluoroalkyl compounds.
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While PFCs have a unique chemical stability that is desirable and sometimes required, there is also a cause for environmental and health concerns.
Researchers suggest that PFCs could have toxic effects on teenagers, too.
What Are PFCs In?
Often found in waterproof clothing and greaseproof packaging for food, PFCs are in a lot of common items. Most PFCs are most notably in Teflon coating on non-stick frying pans.
So researchers over at the University of Padua in Italy made this grave discovery after measuring the penises of 383 men with an average age of 18. After this massive sausage fest, the scientists concluded men who grew up in an area polluted with PFCs would have penises 12.5% shorter and 6.3% thinner than healthy men.
Padua is near Venice and is one of four areas in the world that are known to have high levels of PFC pollution. PFCs have been phased out in 2013. These perfluoroalkyl compounds have been a health hazard in Dordrecht in the Netherlands, Shandong in China, and West Virginia in the US.
The Italian researchers found that the PFCs will bind to testosterone receptors — reducing the levels of the male sex hormone in the body. As a result of this, you get smaller penises, less healthy and less mobile sperm, and a shorter distance between their scrotum and anus — a sign of lower fertility.
"As the first report on water contamination of PFCs goes back to 1977, the magnitude of the problem is alarming," said the researchers, led by Dr Andrea Di Nisio.
"It affects an entire generation of young individuals, from 1978 onward."
There are hundreds of forms of PFCs and they make everyday products last longer and more convenient. Fast food packaging, paper plates, stain-resistant carpets, windshield washing fluid, waterproof clothing, and fire-fighting foam all contain PFCs. Oh, don't forget some glues, cosmetics, medicines, electronics, cleaning products, polishes, waxes, insecticides, and paints...
Unfortunately, we are only in the early stages of understanding how toxic and potentially cancer-causing PFCs pose to our bodies. Other studies have linked PFCs to early menopause, low birth weight, lower fertility, thyroid problems, high cholesterol, bladder cancer, and more.
The chemicals get into our body by being absorbed in the intestines from our food and drinking water.
We can also breathe it in.
So once they hit our bloodstream, it can be toxic to fetuses and teenagers who undergo big hormonal changes. Men who are exposed to PFCs while in the womb can result in higher levels of female hormones in adulthood — developing smaller penises.
In Dr Di Nisio's study, the penises were measured of 212 men who grew up in an area with high exposure to PFCs, and 171 men who grew up away from the area.
All participants were part of the Veneto region of Italy, but they were categorized by whether they lived in a red, yellow, or green zone based on known levels of PFC contamination.
This region is highly polluted due to run-off from a chemical factory and wastewater treatment plant that made it into a major river and the drinking water.
The non-exposed men (green zone) had an average flaccid penis length of 10cm (3.9ins) – measured along the top from body to tip – while the men in the polluted areas were just 8.75cm (3.4ins) long.
Their penises were thinner, too, but by a smaller margin: the healthy men measured 10.3cm (4ins) in circumference compared to 9.65cm (3.7ins) for the polluted penises.
Researchers say there isn't much that can be done about the problem until we ban or phase out all PFCs. The researchers go on to say that the problem is likely to continue. Since PFCs are very stable, once released into the environment, they are expected to remain there longer than the human species.
This study is documenting how much of an impact PFCs have on human male health since they directly interfere with our hormonal pathways. This can lead to male infertility.
"At least here in Italy, it is very difficult to know if a product contains these chemicals.
In the case of a product where it is explicitly stated 'PFOA-free', I do not feel safe anyway, because PFOA is only one of hundreds of possible PFC compounds, and they can all be dangerous. Therefore it is very hard to avoid any contact with any PFC," says Dr Di Nisio.
Dupont and Chemours, the manufacturers of Teflon, paid $671 million in a settlement for the spillage of PFCs into a river in West Virginia. This leak allegedly contaminated local water supplies and has been linked to diseases including testicular and kidney cancers.
Chemours makes a non-stick coating with a chemical called PTFE, which is supposed to be free of damaging PFCs. The EPA warns PFCs are used around the world in imported goods.
This research was published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.