There are many things that young men illegally crossing into the United States hope to gain; breasts are not typically on that list.
Haitian immigrants had been fleeing to America for decades in attempts to escape from the murderous and oppressive Francois “Papa Doc” and Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier regimes. They would attempt to boat unnoticed onto the American shoreline, then either live under forged identities or apply for asylum. Many were caught and sent to detention centers where they would be screened and, typically, returned to their home nation.
In the early 1980s, however, many of the detainees noticed an unusual effect of being kept in American detention: breasts. A condition known as gynecomastia – normally very rare – was experienced among about 1 out of every 7 immigrants in the Fort Allen processing center in Puerto Rico. The symptoms involve males spontaneously developing female breasts, typically alongside decreased libido and sometimes loss of facial hair.
The detainees were less than thrilled. Complaints to lawyers and law enforcement led to the CDC becoming involved.
Suspicions ran high that what caused it was secret AIDS testing; Haitians were already known as a high-risk demographic, so it was an understandable extrapolation. Further research found the culprit, however: the de-lousing agents used by the government to clean the often lice-ridden Haitians. Things like Kwell shampoo did not introduce extra female hormones into the detainees, but they did significantly minimize any male hormone activity.
Most of the symptoms went away over time, after the subjects were no longer being exposed to the chemicals. Not all of the detainees were so lucky, however; a number wound up needing mastectomies and complaining of psychological trauma.
Question of the night: what’s the most unusual gift you’ve received?