From The Mail:

Growing up in a remote community on the west coast of Scotland in the Fifties, there was little opportunity for a boy with an embarrassing problem to discuss it with anyone.

‘You can imagine how people would have reacted,’ says Wilf Stevenson, 64, now Lord Stevenson of Balmacara. ‘It is not a subject easy to raise even now.’

Lord Stevenson, opposition whip and former special adviser to Gordon Brown, was born with hypospadias, a condition where the urethra, which delivers urine and sperm, comes out on the shaft of the penis rather than the tip. It does not necessarily affect urinary or sexual function, but it can make urinating difficult.

As Lord Stevenson explains, with some understatement: ‘Although the condition is as common as hare lip or cleft palate, it simply wasn’t talked about, and isn’t now. I just had to deal with it, and it wasn’t easy.’

He is among the one in 50 people (around 1.2 million Britons) thought to have been born with some kind of disorder of sexual development (DSD) as a result of errors in their genetic code.

These cause abnormalities while a baby is growing in the womb, and range from mild genital abnormalities to ‘intersex’ conditions such as congenital adrenal hyperplasia — where the baby has female and male physical characteristics such as a womb and a penis.

Overall, DSDs causing ‘ambiguous’ genitalia affect an estimated one in 1,000 people.

However, Lord Stevenson’s condition is more common — and it may be becoming increasingly so, as a result of ‘gender-bending’ chemicals used in plastics and hormones excreted by women taking the Pill or similar drugs used in animal rearing.

Although the use of growth promoting hormones is illegal in the EU and other countries, there may still be a risk in imported meat. Traces of these hormones have also been found in drinking-water supplies in studies by the Environment Agency and Medical Research Council.

‘There is no doubt that male reproductive disorders are increasing, but for some reason it is hard to get people to recognise the fact,’ says Professor Richard Sharpe of the Medical Research Council’s Centre for Reproductive Health at Edinburgh University, who runs a research group looking specifically at men.

‘It is an issue which ought to attract a great deal more attention,’ he says.
Professor Ieuan Hughes of Cambridge University, whose research focuses on abnormal sexual development in humans, says studies show a rise in the problem of undescended testes, where the organs remain within the body cavity of male babies, creating a risk of future infertility.

‘The latest research shows 7 to 8 per cent of babies are affected, and it was half that in the Sixties,’ he says.