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Staff writerKYOTO — In an attempt to exchange the latest research on one of the most critical environmental issues today, more than 1,100 scientists and government officials from eight countries gathered Friday in Kyoto for a three-day symposium on endocrine disrupters.

The gathering, organized by the Environment Agency, was mainly for scientists. Sunday’s session, however, is aimed at explaining the latest research on the issue to the public.

During the three-day session, 39 researchers and government officials, including 23 from overseas, were scheduled to present the results of their studies at the Kyoto International Conference Hall.

It is the first time that this many researchers have gathered to discuss endocrine disrupters, an agency official said.

On Friday, screening methods for endocrine disrupters and their cellular mechanisms were explained by four speakers, including an official from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. In the afternoon, the human effects of the substances were explained by six speakers, including Chisato Mori, an associate professor at Kyoto University.

According to Mori and his team, which analyzed medical data from about 5,000 Japanese men between 1960 and 1998, the weight of their testes and caput epididymis increased between 1960 and 1980, but has slightly declined since then.

The team’s analysis of data collected in 1978, 1988, 1993 and 1998 showed no obvious changes in the ability of Japanese men to produce spermatozoa. But their analysis found that the age at which the weight of boys’ testes peaks has dropped during the 40 years between the 1930s and the 1970s.

So the team concluded that puberty in Japanese boys, as in the case of girls, has accelerated, and that it may be due to exposure to several environmental toxicants, including endocrine disrupters.

Mori said the symposium could provide opportunities to start joint research on endocrine disrupters across international lines, which is necessary in order to find a solution to problems posed by such substances.

The results of more than 100 scientists who are members of the Japan Society of Endocrine Disrupters Research, including those on Mori’s team, are on display at the symposium.

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