José Benítez, the mayor of Huarmey, a town on the coast of central Peru, claims that the high levels of strontium in the local tap water is reducing male hormones and causing an increase in the homosexual population, reported Peruvian newspaper, La Republica.
Benitez made the comments at the launch of a local water access project, it was reported. The mayor's audience was surprised by his comments, and he is being criticized by some for his "ignorance."
Dr. Robert Castro Rodriguez, dean of the College of Pharmaceutical Chemistry of Lima, said Benitez's claims were off the mark, telling a Peruvian radio station that high amounts of strontium could lead to bone cancer, anemia and cardiovascular complications, but not homosexuality.
This is not the first time a South American politician has blamed chemistry for homosexuality. In 2009, Bolivian president Evo Morales said that hormones injected into chicken can not only turn people gay, but bald as well.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Morales told attendees at a climate change conference that chicken producers inject the birds with female hormones, "and because of that, men who consume them have problems being men."
Morales also blamed the hormones for causing hair loss. "Baldness, which seems normal, is a sickness in Europe," he said. "Almost everyone is bald. And that's because of what they eat."
The Bolivian president's comments infuriated gay activists groups, including Spain’s Federation of Lesbians, Gays, Transsexuals and Bisexuals (FELGTB), which accused Morales of "state homophobia."
Antonio Poveda, head of FELGTB, said that Morales' statements promoted "hatred towards this collective." Poveda also claimed that in Bolivia, lesbians, gays, transsexuals and bisexuals "have no rights at all," reported the Merco Press.
Gay activist groups have also been critical of Peru, which banned gays from serving on the police force in 2009. The measure also made adultery an offense subject to dismissal, according to Pink News.