Sunday, June 11, 2023

‘Absolutely stunned’: Sperm counts are falling faster than ever

This scare article on an old topic is just another way of promoting a whole host of irrational Greenie fears about "chemicals" in the environment. Big problem: As far as we can tell, overall sperm counts are NOT declining. See

And the emphasis on sperm counts is outdated anyway. We now know that sperm motility is the crucial factor. Sperm count is a correlate of motility but is not itself the problem. I have always had a low sperm count but had good sperm motility, so had no trouble fertilizing the egg that became my robust son

Chemicals in tin can linings, cosmetics, nail polish, teflon pans and flame retardants on cushions have been linked to a steep decline in sperm counts and a potential “crisis in human reproduction”, Australian fertility specialists have been warned.

Sperm counts have fallen 52 per cent in the past five decades – and the decline appears to be speeding up – experts at the 2023 Fertility Society of Australia and New Zealand conference were told this week.

Leading environmental and reproductive epidemiologist Dr Shanna Swan has studied the effects of chemicals now common in everyday life and the environment on male fetus development. She was “absolutely stunned” to discover a key reason for falling sperm production was chemicals that can interfere with the body’s hormones.

Chemicals known as phthalates, found in personal care products, fragrances, plastics and even dust, were among those affecting development of baby boys, via the mother’s exposure in early pregnancy, Swan said. Chemicals known as BPAs, found in plastics, were also to blame.

An exposed boy’s future offspring would also likely be affected, said Swan, a professor of environmental medicine and public health at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York.

An updated meta-analysis of studies from around the world found sperm counts were declining worldwide “at an even faster rate than we thought”.

“It was about 1 per cent per year since 1972, and from 2000 on, it was 2.64 per cent, which says sperm count is declining at an accelerated rate,” she said.

Swan predicts that by the middle of the century, many more people will rely on reproductive technologies.

Swan said her latest research had accounted for differences in the measurement of sperm.

“[The effects] don’t stop with the pregnant woman, or the pregnant woman’s offspring. The child, in the next generation will be impaired similarly,” she said.

“We have a multigenerational impact, and probably impacts on life expectancy and morbidity [illness] are also going to be there for those children.”

Professor Roger Hart, lead clinician for the Western Australian public fertility service, is part of the world’s oldest longitudinal study of development from pre-birth through to adulthood, the federally funded Raine Study.

He said its findings supported Swan’s.

The University of Western Australia professor and sub-specialist in endocrinology and infertility said just 14.4 per cent of boys born during the study – which began in 1989 with a cohort of almost 3000 women – had sperm counts that met the minimum standard.

One Raine finding was that sperm concentration and motility in the offspring were significantly linked to BPAs in the mother’s blood.

“We found if the boy’s exposure to phthalates was higher in utero, [then] when they were 21 their testicles were significantly smaller. According to how much exposure you had, testicular volume was reduced,” Hart said.

“It is very much in line with Shanna’s [work]; she’s reporting that sperm counts have dropped by half in 50 years ... Obviously, we need to study further to see what the causes [of sperm decline] are – but this is pretty amazing stuff.”

But associate professor Tim Moss, of the not-for-profit men’s health organisation Healthy Male, urged caution in drawing a link between chemical exposure and men’s infertility.

Moss, a former president of the Perinatal Society of Australia and New Zealand, said he believed the studies examined by Swan’s group were limited.

Hart’s work showed effects of BPAs and phthalate exposure were “borderline, if anything; but this does not mean that there is not an effect”, he said.

Moss argued three years ago in The Conversation that the “doomsday scenario” for sperm production suggested in Swan’s original metanalysis had not been adequately proven.

“It’s reasonable to expect chemicals that affect hormone function in our bodies ... could affect reproduction in males and females, given available evidence. But we don’t have irrefutable proof,” he wrote.


A case study of why it is so difficult to build new homes

A lot of different people insert themselves into the process and have to be placated in some way. We all pay a price for the delay that they cause -- in the form of fewer residences being built per year and the resulting higher accommodation costs

A row over a proposed 855-dwelling project which would house 2,000 residents at Zetland is being seen as a test for the New South Wales government in the battle over Sydney development.

The site is on prime real estate, 5 kilometres from the CBD and just behind Southern Cross Drive, one of Sydney's busiest arterial roads.

It's also become the centre of a stoush between one of Australia's richest men, and the neighbouring Randwick City Council, as Sydney grapples with a housing shortage.

NSW Premier Chris Minns last week made it clear his vision to address Sydney's housing issues was to reduce urban sprawl and create more densely populated inner-city suburbs.

Billionaire Harry Triguboff, Meriton Group's managing director, says his company is trying to do just that with its blueprint for the Zetland site, which includes a 25-storey tower.

"You know that we need apartments, people have nowhere to live. I build every year, 2,000 apartments. So I provide the most in the country," he told the ABC.

But some residents from nearby Randwick City Council area have banded together in opposition, calling a public meeting tonight to air their concerns — and the local mayor is behind them.

Forecast to grow to around 32,000 homes by 2036 with up to 70,000 residents, Zetland symbolises the government's battle to manage a liveable city alongside increasing housing density.

Meriton's proposed developments would be on one of the largest remaining sites — once home to a car dealership — in the vast urban renewal precinct at Green Square.

The state government is under pressure to review the plan from Randwick City Council, angry locals, and one of its own ministers.

West Kensington resident Jane Grusovin said tonight's public meeting was called because of problems facing the area like traffic gridlock, a lack of public transport and affordable housing.

Ms Grusovin said Green Square desperately needed a Metro station, more schools and parks, and argued the growing population was putting surrounding areas under pressure.

"The problem with this Meriton planning proposal on the old Sutton's Holden site, is the densification without the infrastructure to support it," she said.

Mr Minns faces opposition to the project from within his own party.

Local Government Minister Ron Hoenig will speak at the meeting and opposes the development.

Mr Hoenig, whose electorate of Heffron takes in Zetland, called for a moratorium on further development in a January social media post.

"I'm for good quality high-density apartment living when the people can be moved, educated, housed, and provided health services. That is not Zetland," he said in it.

Randwick Council's critique calls for the proposal to look more closely at the impact of traffic and transport, height, visual impact and overshadowing on the residents of West Kensington.

An old house with an apartment block in the background
The new development will be situated to the left of this apartment block in Zetland.(ABC News: Harriet Tatham)
Randwick Mayor Dylan Parker said reports showed that, even as far back as 2009, roads and traffic in the area was a concern.

The only railway station at Green Square is crowded at peak times, although, a new metro station in the neighbouring suburb of Waterloo is due to open next year.

The South East Sydney Transport Study (SESTS) in 2020 pointed to the urgent need for a Metro station at Zetland and rapid bus routes, but there was no "firm commitment" to these projects by the state government, Mr Parker said.

Meriton believes the proposal's impact on traffic would be minimal, with Southern Cross Drive "on the doorstep" and 952 car spaces being built for 855 dwellings to alleviate pressure on street parking.

Spotlight on height limits

The leafy, wide streets of West Kensington sit just across the other side of Southern Cross Drive, east of the planned development.

Randwick Council, which oversees Kensington, argues the visual impact of the development's 25-storey tower on the heritage suburb needs to be considered.

Resident Megan Smith already lives in the shadow of another multi-storey apartment block built in Zetland, adjacent to the site of the proposed development.

She has written to the City of Sydney about the intrusion on her family's privacy and her objection to height rezoning allowing a tower 90 metres high in one corner of the planned site.

"We totally understand that councils have to provide housing for people. We're not against that at all. But just raising the height limits from 30 metres to 90 metres is outrageous," she said.

Meriton said its shadow diagrams indicated two or three buildings would be overshadowed in Randwick local government area, and Mr Triguboff dismissed concerns about privacy due to the development being on the other side of the Eastern Distributor.

Independent councillor Yvonne Weldon, Greens Deputy Mayor Sylvie Ellsmore and Labor's Linda Scott raised concerns when the proposal came before Sydney City Council in December 2022.

They voted against it being placed on public display and handed to the state government for a final decision.

Ms Weldon would like to see affordable housing included in the development, and points out the city has already met "very ambitious" housing targets set for Zetland.

"When we have major developments such as this, I don't understand why there isn't more done to actually incorporate affordable and social housing in existing developments," she said.

In a statement, Meriton said its latest offer to Sydney City Council included the construction of 25 affordable-housing units and a cash contribution to provide additional affordable housing.

"Council has asked us for it to be in so it's within our development, but it's in its own building, which we then give to them so they can manage it as they see fit, which they prefer," Mr Triguboff said.

The offer responds to issues raised by public submissions on the development.

How global cities tackle housing crisis

Renting and buying in the Harbour City has never been less affordable, but the solutions to the deepening crisis could be staring us right in the face.

University of NSW architecture professor and former City of Sydney councillor Philip Thalis said some people were choosing to live in Green Square because they could not afford to live in suburbs like Kensington.

"There's a huge equity issue here. And if you actually look at the demographics of Green Square, predominantly young people, whether they're renting or buying their first home, these are the people we actually need to look after," he said.

"I'm much more concerned about what's happening [with development] in places like Granville. I'm much more concerned about what's happened in Carlingford. What's happening at Mascot Town Centre?"

After City of Sydney has reviewed public submissions, the Department of Planning and Environment (DPE) will finalise the project's Local Environment Plan (LEP) in September, under the minister's delegation.

"They will ensure all matters raised by the community and government agencies will be adequately addressed prior to a final decision being made," a DPE spokesperson said in a statement.


Senior child psychiatrist stood down after questioning gender medicine

The suspension of a senior staff psychiatrist over her approach to transgender patients has thrown the Queensland Children’s Hospital into turmoil, casting a spotlight on widespread concerns among doctors at the treatment of children with gender dysphoria.

The case of Jillian Spencer – stood down from clinical duties apparently accused of transphobia – has exposed a culture in which clinicians are unable to employ medical discretion or a neutral therapeutic stance and are bound by their employment to affirm children’s gender transition.

Dr Spencer, a senior staff specialist in the QCH’s consultation liaison psychiatry team, was removed from clinical duties in mid-April following a patient complaint in an unusual response from a public hospital that followed months of conflict over affirmative gender medicine and trans identity politics within the hospital.

The case has prompted other doctors to raise concerns about the operation of the hospital’s gender clinic and the lack of co-ordination with its adolescent mental health service, the young age at which vulnerable patients with complex presentations are being prescribed cross-sex hormones, and the advocacy role of the gender clinic’s nurses who are running education sessions for public school nurses on chest binding.

Some staff members employed at the QCH have spoken of their concern at the way Dr Spencer’s case was being handled after the hospital drew upon its powers to compel staff under employment law to use children’s preferred pronouns, even though doing so was regarded by the Cass review as an active treatment measure as part of a social transition process that could lead to a cascade of medical interventions.

The hospital has also banned any discouragement of referrals to the gender clinic.

Some doctors at the hospital hold concerns that children are being prescribed hormone treatments after only two consultations at the Queensland Children’s Gender Service, with teenagers being approved for cross-sex hormones, which carry side-effects of sterility and loss of sexual function, sometimes at just 14 years old. This is despite the UK and several European countries adopting a more cautious approach to the prescription of such drugs amid concerns – also expressed by NSW’s Westmead gender clinic doctors – the evidence base was lacking.

The QCGS has 922 patients on its books and, according to FOI documents, prescribed cross-sex hormones to 102 adolescents in 2022 – more than twice as many as the Melbourne Children’s Hospital’s gender clinic. However, the true number of patients on hormones may be significantly greater as many are referred to private clinicians who prescribe to children under the care of QCGS.

Nurses employed by the gender service have been running “chest binder fitting sessions” for patients, as well as providing training to public school-based health nurses on chest binding.

The hospital not only actively pushes pronouns compliance by staff but also enters patients in the medical records as the gender they identify as, rather than their sex-based gender. Some doctors are opposed to this as it renders sex-based measures such as growth charts inaccurate among other medical implications.

QCH management did not respond to specific questions concerning all of these issues. A spokesperson for Children’s Health Queensland said: “The safety and wellbeing of children and young people in our care is always our highest priority.”

“All treatment and care provided by the Queensland Children’s Gender Service is guided by the Australian Standards of Care and Treatment Guidelines for Trans and Gender Diverse Children and Adolescents, and the World Professional Association for Transgender Health’s Standards of Care for the Health of Transgender and Gender Diverse People (8th edition),” the spokesperson said. “In line with Children’s Health Queensland’s universal person-centred care approach, we respect the individual needs and preferences of every child … and their right to feel safe and supported while receiving clinical care through our services.”

The hospital operates on the basis that gender dysphoria results in serious mental health problems if not treated early and in accordance with internationally recognised practice.

Dr Spencer is prevented from speaking about her employment, but a number of Queensland medics aware of the circumstances of the psychiatrist’s case have spoken to The Weekend Australian.

The matter that led to Dr Spencer’s removal from clinical duties is understood to relate to an assessment she carried out in the hospital’s paediatrics ward of a mentally troubled 14-year-old who was under the care of the hospital’s gender clinic and had been taking puberty blockers.

Following the consultation, an apparent complaint of transphobia was levelled by the patient, and it was deemed by the hospital executive that Dr Spencer represented a risk to the safety of trans and gender-diverse children. Sources familiar with the matter said the psychiatrist has not been provided details of the complaint by the hospital.

“This is completely unusual,” said Dylan Wilson, a Queensland paediatrician informed of the situation. “This is not standard in terms of managing complaints.”

Dr Spencer is a signatory to the National Association of Practising Psychiatrists’ guide to managing gender dysphoria and incongruence in young people, which advocates a cautious approach and comprehensive mental health assessment. Her concerns about the lack of an evidence base underpinning gender-affirmative medicine and the prescription of puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones to children were well-known within the hospital.

“Doctors in no way should be punished for expressing any concerns about a treatment pathway in any speciality in any form,” said NAPP’s president, psychiatrist Philip Morris.

“It would be completely outrageous if expressing concerns which are echoed by international organisations resulted in any form of disciplinary action.”

Children’s Health Queensland said it was, by law, unable to comment on employment matters but noted all employees were bound by public sector codes of conduct.

Dr Spencer has become so concerned at what she believes are the harms to children of the affirmative medicine model – which came under heavy scrutiny during a review in the UK by paediatrician Hilary Cass, who concluded there is a lack of evidence underpinning it – that she has appeared at women’s rights rallies and detailed her concerns at the “massive health risks” from hormone drugs and surgeries.

She told a recent rally in Canberra she was deeply concerned at the current culture in which “anyone’s child will be encouraged at school, online, during extra-curricular activities, by their friends and by health professionals to contemplate their gender”.

“Even little kids are being encouraged to contemplate their gender,” Dr Spencer said. “For some children this turns into an enduring preoccupation and they start to believe that the solution to any difficulties that they are facing lies in changing their bodies. From this point on the nightmare for families begins.

“Because they slowly come to realise that there is collusion going on between teachers, health professionals, child protection services and even the courts to ensure that all children are affirmed even if their parents disagree with that approach.

“Suddenly you’ll see what you never had cause to notice before: rainbow lanyards around the necks of health professionals and teachers, trans pride flags … in the waiting room at the health clinic, adults asking your child their preferred pronouns and using them … Wherever you try to move there is a professional there ready to trans your child.

“It will suddenly dawn on you (you) are not in with a chance to protect your child. These people you are relying on for help in the village it takes to raise a child are not actually interested in the long-term welfare of your child. They don’t suffer if your child becomes infertile or never experiences sexual pleasure or lives with debilitating side-effects from puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones.

“But they feel like really good people because they’re being inclusive.”


Parents left in the dark by new-age learning

In the jargon and edubabble much loved by new-age, Woke educrats teachers no longer teach, instead they are described as facilitators and guides by the side, and students, instead of being students, are knowledge navigators and digital natives where self-agency and self-directed, inquiry-based learning prevails.

Teacher-directed lessons have been scrapped to be replaced by collaborative, negotiated, goal-setting based on deep dives and holistic synergies. Instead of pass/fail, assessment is based on muti-tiered progression points and zones of proximal development.

Welcome to the mad, crazy world of 21st century learning where teachers are drowned in education gobbledegook making it impossible to teach effectively and to ensure students work hard to achieve the best results.

No wonder, despite the additional billions invested over the last 10 to 20 years education standards, as measured by international mathematics, science, and literacy tests, have either flatlined or gone backwards. Employers also complain about young employees lacking basic skills.

Teachers are no longer the masters of their subject based on the fact they know more than their students. Instead, learning is restricted to the world of the student. Teachers are told students must have choice, voice, and agency when it comes to what happens in the classroom.

Primary school children, in particular, are centre stage where self-directed learning draws on a process model that allows students to engage with the curriculum at their point of need and that engages them as the centrepiece in the inquiry cycle.

Students pose questions, seek answers, and are guided to become effective researchers where they take ownership and co-construct meaning with peers. To cater for all learning styles, success-criteria is outlined and/or co-constructed so that they can be set up for success, and ultimately be rewarded in the classroom.

When it comes to assessment the new-age classroom is also progressive and decidedly Woke. Gone are the days when students either passed or failed and where the class was ranked in terms of performance.

Those responsible for Australia’s National Assessment Program Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) boast there is no pass/fail in the national test as students are assessed as either exceeding, strong, developing or needs additional support. Whatever that means.

Instead of summative assessment, where 4 out of 10 means fail and work is ranked A to E, teachers now use an assessment that is descriptive, diagnostic, collaborative, and based on a developmental continuum with various progression points.

Not only do students progress from year to year without any explicit measure of whether they have mastered what is required, but parents are left in the dark as their children progress through school. The first time students face a high-risk, objective test is Year 12.

Not surprisingly, one of the common complaints made by teachers is that instead of having the time and energy to actually teach and interact with students they are exhausted by a new-age approach to learning and assessment that is cumbersome, time-consuming, and counter-productive.

What needs to be done? Instead of meaningless edubabble what happens in the classroom should be expressed succinctly and directly in plain English based on what the evidence suggests is the most teacher friendly and effective approach.

Teachers, instead of being guides by the side, must be authority figures in charge of the classroom. Students, especially boys, need boundaries as the most effective classrooms are those where there is a disciplined, industrious environment with consistently enforced consequences for bad behaviour.

One of the reasons Australian classrooms are ranked among the most disruptive and noisy across the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries is because schools have adopted fads like open classrooms and teachers as friends instead of authority figures.

Teachers and schools must also set high expectations where students are pressured to excel instead of excusing failure because students are from so-called disadvantaged groups and less well-off communities.

One of the reasons Asian students in places like South Korea, Japan, and China outperform Australian students in international tests like TIMSS and PISA is because every student, whether poor or rich, city or country is pushed to excel.

The expression only a fool repeats again and again what has been proven to fail is especially true when it comes to education. Notwithstanding that the gobbledegook forced on teachers is responsible for falling standards and teacher burnout, it is still all pervasive.

The most recent asks teachers to implement a multi-tiered level system of teaching, involving ‘universal student screening, evidence-based interventions provided on a sliding scale of intensity, and progress monitoring of students receiving intervention’.

Asking teachers to evaluate and monitor every student, each lesson based on individualised learning programs and progression points, once again, overwhelms them with paperwork, taking time from actually teaching and raising standards.




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