Chemicals used to make non-stick pans have been linked to men having smaller penises. Yes, you read that correctly.
The eyebrow-raising study found men with higher levels of exposure to polyfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) had penises that were 12.5 per cent shorter and 6.3 per cent thinner than other men.
The chemicals have previously been linked to reducing testosterone levels in men and the researchers, from the University of Padua in Italy, said this could interfere with the development of male organs.
Almost 400 men agreed to let researchers measure their penises for the study.
Half the men lived in Italy’s Veneto region, an area where chemical companies manufacture PFCs, so it’s known to have high levels of the pollutant in its waters. The other half of the men lived in areas without high PFC levels.
The study, published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, looked at two common PFC compounds, called PFOA and PFOS. As well as differences in penis size, it found exposure to both the PFC compounds was linked to lower sperm mobility and therefore lower fertility.
So what’s going on here?
Well, the scientists say more research is needed into the impacts of PFCs, but we know the chemicals can be “absorbed by the intestine or inhaled”. Once in the circulation, they may disrupt our natural hormones.
“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,” the authors wrote. “We found that increased levels of PFCs... correlate with circulating testosterone and with a reduction of semen quality, testicular volume, penile length, and AGD [anogenital distance].”
PFCs aren’t just used in non-stick pans, they’re used in a whole host of household products, including takeaway containers and waterproof clothing. According to Greenpeace, they’re also used in the chemical PTFE, which is better known by the brand name Teflon.
Study author Andrea Di Nisio said 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,” he told IFLScience. “Therefore it is very hard to avoid any contact with any PFC.”
In other words, until more research is done and the chemicals are potentially phased out, there’s not a lot you can do. So use your non-stick pan to make a bacon sandwich and be merry.