Are in-utero or peripubertal exposures to phthalates, parabens and other phenols found in personal care products associated with timing of pubertal onset in boys and girls?
We found some associations of altered pubertal timing in girls, but little evidence in boys.
WHAT IS KNOWN ALREADY:
Certain chemicals in personal care and consumer products, including low molecular weight phthalates, parabens and phenols, or their precursors, are associated with altered pubertal timing in animal studies.
STUDY DESIGN, SIZE, DURATION:
Data were from the Center for the Health Assessment of Mothers and Children of Salinas (CHAMACOS) longitudinal cohort study which followed 338 children in the Salinas Valley, California, from before birth to adolescence.
PARTICIPANTS/MATERIALS, SETTING, METHODS:
Pregnant women were enrolled in 1999-2000. Mothers were mostly Latina, living below the federal poverty threshold and without a high school diploma. We measured concentrations of three phthalate metabolites (monoethyl phthalate [MEP], mono-n-butyl phthalate and mono-isobutyl phthalate), methyl and propyl paraben and four other phenols (triclosan, benzophenone-3 and 2,4- and 2,5-dichlorophenol) in urine collected from mothers during pregnancy and from children at age 9. Pubertal timing was assessed among 179 girls and 159 boys every 9 months between ages 9 and 13 using clinical Tanner staging. Accelerated failure time models were used to obtain mean shifts of pubertal timing associated with concentrations of prenatal and peripubertal biomarkers.
MAIN RESULTS AND THE ROLE OF CHANCE:
In girls, we observed earlier onset of pubic hair development with prenatal urinary MEP concentrations and earlier menarche with prenatal triclosan and 2,4-dichlorophenol concentrations. Regarding peripubertal biomarkers, we observed: earlier breast development, pubic hair development and menarche with methyl paraben; earlier menarche with propyl paraben; and later pubic hair development with 2,5-dichlorophenol. In boys, we observed no associations with prenatal urinary biomarker concentrations and only one association with peripubertal concentrations: earlier genital development with propyl paraben.
LIMITATIONS, REASONS FOR CAUTION:
These chemicals are quickly metabolized and one to two urinary measurements per developmental point may not accurately reflect usual exposure. Associations of peripubertal measurements with parabens may reflect reverse causality: children going through puberty early may be more likely to use personal care products. The study population was limited to Latino children of low socioeconomic status living in a farmworker community and may not be widely generalizable.
WIDER IMPLICATIONS OF THE FINDINGS:
This study contributes to a growing literature that suggests that exposure to certain endocrine disrupting chemicals may impact timing of puberty in children.
STUDY FUNDING/COMPETING INTEREST(S):
(By Alex Pietrowski) Within the past twenty years, studies have been showing that girls and boys are beginning puberty earlier in life than at any other time in history. Not coincidentally, the world has been inundated with a slew of toxic chemicals in products that we use every day and practically everywhere.
A recent study is raising the alarm over this issue, pointing out that some of these common chemicals may be disrupting a child’s development even while they are still in the womb before they are born.
We know that some of the things we put on our bodies are getting into our bodies, either because they pass through the skin or we breathe them in or we inadvertently ingest them. We need to know how these chemicals are affecting our health. ~Kim Harley, lead author of the study and associate adjunct professor in the School of Public Health at Berkeley
Recently published in the journal Human Reproduction, a new report sheds light on this complex issue. Using data collected as part of the Centre for the Health Assessment of Mothers and Children of Salinas (CHAMACOS), researchers followed 338 children from birth into adolescence. The findings suggest that early environmental exposures may indeed impact childhood physical and mental development.
The chemicals in question — phthalates, parabens and phenols — are known as endocrine disrupters, which may mimic hormones and lead children to mature well before their natural time. As the study noted, exposure to these chemicals is widespread, which is why it’s crucial parents be made aware of the findings.
Indeed, the chemicals are widespread:
Phthalates are used as fixing agents in scented products like deodorants and perfumes, and to prevent cracking in nail polish. They are also common in plastic packaging.
Parabens are a family of compounds that are widely used as preservatives. Meanwhile, phenols, notably triclosan and benzophenone, are used to enhance the durability of some products and as antimicrobial agents. [Source]
The conclusions of the study are paraphrased here by PubMed:
In girls, we observed earlier onset of pubic hair development with prenatal urinary MEP concentrations and earlier menarche with prenatal triclosan and 2,4-dichlorophenol concentrations. Regarding peripubertal biomarkers, we observed: earlier breast development, pubic hair development and menarche with methyl paraben; earlier menarche with propyl paraben; and later pubic hair development with 2,5-dichlorophenol. In boys, we observed no associations with prenatal urinary biomarker concentrations and only one association with peripubertal concentrations: earlier genital development with propyl paraben. [Source]
Here, WebMD comments on the ubiquitousness of just phthalates in the products we consume daily:
You can’t see, smell, or taste them, but they’re in hundreds of products you use every day. They’re also in the food you eat. Phthalates (THAL-ates) are chemicals that make plastic soft and flexible. You can find them in:
- Cosmetics and personal care products, from perfume, nail polish, and hair spray to soap, shampoo, and skin moisturizers
- Medical tubing and fluid bags
- Wood finishes, detergents, adhesives, plastic plumbing pipes, lubricants, solvents, insecticides, building materials, and vinyl flooring
- Food, especially meat and dairy products and fast food
They’re also in your body. Nearly all Americans have phthalate byproducts in their urine, says Ami Zota, assistant professor of environmental and occupational health at George Washington University. [Source]
Early puberty has also been linked to increased chances of mental health disorders, ovarian and breast cancer in girls, and testicular cancer in boys. And, sadly, hormone-disrupting chemicals are here to stay; but if these chemicals are to blame, as the research suggests, then improving this situation begins with switching to all-natural, chemical household and personal care products.
Alex Pietrowski is an artist and writer concerned with preserving good health and the basic freedom to enjoy a healthy lifestyle. He is a staff writer for WakingTimes.com. Alex is an avid student of Yoga and life. This article (Warning: Chemicals Common in Toothpaste and Personal Care Items are Causing Early Puberty) was originally created and published by Waking Times.