Men develop penises up to half an inch shorter if their parents are exposed to a common chemical used in non-stick frying pans and waterproof clothing.
The chemicals, perfluoroalkyl compounds (PFCs) are also used in greaseproof paper – but can have alarming effects on male children.
Italian scientists monitored an area with high levels of PFCs in the water, and found that men had ‘significantly’ shorter and thinner penises.
The researchers say that the chemicals interfere with hormonal pathways – and also mean men have less mobile sperm.
The researchers write, ‘This study documents that PFCs have a substantial impact on human male health as they directly interfere with hormonal pathways potentially leading to male infertility.
‘We found that increased levels of PFCs in plasma and seminal fluid positively correlate with circulating testosterone and with a reduction of semen quality, testicular volume, penile length, and anogenital distance.’
There are several areas in the world contaminated with the chemicals, which are extremely difficult to remove from the environment, the researchers told IFLScience.
Researcher Andrea Di Nisio says it is hard to avoid the chemicals, telling IFLScience, ‘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.’