'Gender-bending' chemicals found in toothpaste and shampoo causing girls to hit puberty earlier, experts warn

'Gender-bending' chemicals found in toothpaste and shampoo causing girls to hit puberty earlier, experts warn

December 4, 2018

Scientists found high levels in the womb speeds up sexual maturity in women.

But boys’ development was not affected by raised concentrations of gender-bending compounds.

University of California, Berkeley, researchers carried out the long-term study following concerns that girls are now starting puberty earlier.

It puts them at increased risk of mental health problems, as well as breast and ovarian cancer.

The team measured levels of phthalates, parabens and phenols in 338 expectant mums to measure exposure in the womb.

All three chemicals are commonly found in skin care, bathroom and cosmetic products – and are thought to affect levels of key sex hormones in the body.

Scientists discovered that for every doubling in the concentrations of phthalates in a mum’s urine, their daughter’s development of pubic hair shifted 1.3 months earlier.

And for every doubling of a mother’s triclosan levels – a type of phenol – the timing of a girls’ first period was around a month sooner.

Lead researcher Dr Kim Harley, Associate Professor in Public Health at the University of California, Berkeley, said: "We 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.

"This is important because we know that the age at which puberty starts in girls has been getting earlier in the last few decades; one hypothesis is that chemicals in the environment might be playing a role, and our findings support this idea.”

This isn't the first time that chemicals in everyday objects have been linked to precocious puberty.

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 FDA in America allows six hormones in the food supply, including testosterone and progesterone, and scientists back in 2012 suggested that these could be partly to blame, alongside obesity.

But they explicitly also said that parabens found in household products like soap, shampoo and cleaning products are known to mimic estrogen in the body – increasingly the likelihood of early puberty.

The new study is published in the journal Human Reproduction.

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