A recent study has shown that exposure to chemicals found in beauty products and everyday items like shampoo and toothpaste can trigger early puberty in girls.
Conducted by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, the study found a linear link between exposure to chemicals like paraben, phenols and phthalates and the onset of puberty in girls. Per the study, there was no similar observation in boys.
According to a report by the Daily Telegraph, the relationship was found both when the baby girl was exposed to chemicals in the womb and while growing up. Parabens are found in cosmetics and other personal care products while phthalates are found in scented products such as deodorants, perfumes, shampoo, soaps, nail polish, and cosmetics. As for phenols, they are found in toothpaste, lipsticks, hairsprays, soaps, shampoos, and skin-care lotions and are used to increase the shelf life of products.
Dr. Kim Harley, lead author of the study and associate professor in public health at the University of California, Berkeley, said that they “found evidence that some chemicals widely used in personal care products are associated with earlier puberty in girls.”
“Specifically, we found that mothers who had higher levels of two chemicals in their bodies during pregnancy – diethyl phthalate, which is used in fragrance, and triclosan, which is an antibacterial agent in certain soaps and toothpaste – had daughters who entered puberty earlier. We also found that girls with higher levels of parabens in their bodies at the age of nine entered puberty earlier.”
The study also showed that girls in Europe are reaching puberty earlier than ever, “with the average age dropping from 11 to 10 in the last 15 years. In the 1920s it was 14.6 years,” the Daily Telegraph report said.
Reaching puberty at an early age is a concern because it increases the risk of developing mental health problems and risk-taking behavior as teenagers and increases their risk of breast and ovarian cancer, the report said.
“One hypothesis is that chemicals in the environment might be playing a role, and our findings support this idea,” Dr. Harley said.
“We already suspect that certain chemicals that are widely used in personal care products – like phthalates, parabens and triclosan – are endocrine disruptors. This means that they mimic, block or otherwise interfere with natural hormones in our bodies, such as oestrogen,” she added.
According to a report by the Sun, the current research isn’t the first one that has established that chemicals in everyday objects have been linked to early puberty. The report further detailed that in 2010, “two times as many girls were experiencing early puberty compared to a decade before – with kids as young as six reporting signs of change.”
The research was published in the journal Human Reproduction.