Daily Mail

Chem­i­cals in cos­met­ics could make girls go through pu­berty early

- By Vic­to­ria Allen Sci­ence Cor­re­spon­dent v.allen@dai­ly­mail.co.uk

CHEM­I­CALS found in per­fume and body lo­tion may make girls go through pu­berty early.

Those ex­posed to cer­tain sub­stances as chil­dren or in the womb could be­come teenagers at a younger age, a study sug­gests.

A chem­i­cal called di­ethyl ph­tha­late, used in per­fumes and cos­met­ics and only banned by the EU in sig­nif­i­cant con­cen­tra­tions this year, could lead girls to start pu­berty months ear­lier than the av­er­age, re­search found.

Youngsters also started their pe­ri­ods early af­ter be­ing ex­posed to methyl paraben – a chem­i­cal that is found in high street body lo­tions and hand creams.

Re­searchers from the Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia tracked al­most 200 girls from birth to ado­les­cence, and checked for signs of pu­berty ev­ery nine months be­tween the ages of nine and 13.

The chem­i­cals they were ex­posed to are be­lieved to af­fect the fe­male sex hor­mone oe­stro­gen, trig­ger­ing ado­les­cence early. The find­ings are sig­nif­i­cant be­cause fe­males who go through pu­berty early are at greater risk of breast and ovar­ian can­cer.

The study found chil­dren started pu­berty ear­lier if their moth­ers were ex­posed to tri­closan, which is found in some an­tibac­te­rial hand­washes and tooth­paste. The chem­i­cal was mea­sured in the moth­ers’ urine be­tween 14 and 27 weeks of preg­nancy. The daugh­ters of women with the high­est lev­els went on to start their pe­ri­ods four months ear­lier on av­er­age.

And daugh­ters of women with the high­est lev­els of di­ethyl ph­tha­lates de­vel­oped body hair around six months ear­lier, when com­pared to those with the low­est level.

The re­search, pub­lished in the jour­nal Hu­man Re­pro­duc­tion, also found links with propyl paraben – which is used in per­fumes – and chlo­rine-con­tain­ing chem­i­cals, which ap­pear in cos­met­ics in the US but are only for in­dus­trial use in Bri­tain.

The study fol­lowed 338 chil­dren of both sexes from birth to ado­les­cence. How­ever it was only girls, and not boys, who en­tered pu­berty ear­lier when ex­posed to cer­tain chem­i­cals. Lead au­thor Dr Kim Har­ley, of the Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, Berkeley, said chem­i­cals in per­sonal care prod­ucts ‘in­ter­fere with nat­u­ral hor­mones in our bod­ies, such as oe­stro­gen’.

She said: ‘We know the age at which pu­berty starts in girls has been get­ting ear­lier in the last few decades and one the­ory is that chem­i­cals in the en­vi­ron­ment might be play­ing a role. This is an im­por­tant is­sue to ad­dress as ear­lier pu­berty in girls in­creases their risk of men­tal health prob­lems and risk-tak­ing be­hav­iour as teenagers – as well as breast and ovar­ian can­cer over the longer term.

‘This study is im­por­tant be­cause it is one of the first stud­ies to look at hu­man ex­po­sure in the womb and be­cause it gives us a chance to ex­am­ine ex­po­sures both in the womb and at pu­berty.’

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