Early Puberty? 6 Steps to Protect Your Kids

Molly Ringwald in "Pretty in Pink" movieRemember all those John Hughes movies filled with drama and teenaged angst? Beginning at about age nine, my daughter became Molly Ringwald four days out of the month. Sobbing frenzies predicated by a far-flung brush and “I hate my hair!” A room full of clothes and nothing to wear. Crying jags over misunderstandings.

But studies have me wondering if this monthly moodiness might have something to do with hormones.

Is this early puberty?

Early puberty means early breast development, which puts girls at a higher risk for breast and uterine cancer.

In 2010, Pediatrics published a study that found one in 10 girls have already begun developing breasts—the first sign of puberty—by the age of eight. This is not an innocuous finding. Early puberty means early breast development, which puts girls at a higher risk for breast and uterine cancer—as well as eating disorders, depression and early sexual activity, among other challenges.

Yikes.

Experts aren’t sure what’s behind this trend, but endocrine disruptors keep popping up as a probable cause.

Endocrine disruptors include BPA, found in hard plastics, food-can linings and cash register receipts, and a class of chemicals used to soften plastics and stabilize synthetic perfumes, called phthalates. Both substances have been linked to early puberty in animals.

Linda Birnbaum, Director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, is so concerned about endocrine disruptors that she recently published an article on the subject, which drew criticism from members of the Committee on Science, Space and Technology for presenting “broad and general statements…that appear to represent both her viewpoint as well as that of HHS.”

But if she’s worried, I am too. Here’s what you can do to reduce your family’s exposure:

  1. On the go, drink water from a stainless steel bottle, not plastic.
  2. Reduce the amount of canned food your family eats, and when you do, make sure it’s BPA-free.
  3. Wash your hands when you come home to reduce the amount of toxic substances like BPA that you ingest from hand-to-mouth exposure.
  4. Try to use credit cards instead of cash, and in the same way you might politely decline a plastic bag, just ask the cashier to throw away your register receipt.
  5. Don’t microwave meals in plastic containers or wraps; store food in glass or dishware, especially if it’s warm.
  6. Eat more fresh food! According to the Breast Cancer Fund, just three days of eating food not canned or packaged in plastic can reduce your BPA levels by 60 percent.

And on a monthly basis, practice patience.

 

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Comments

  1. Hi Rachel!
    Thank you for calling attention to this dangerous, yet hidden, issue! I also want to point out that endocrine disruptors are prevalent, not just in plastics, but in many personal care and cleaning products! Some products contain multiple endocrine disruptors too – sunscreens are especially notorious for this. It’s all about the ingredients, and consumers really do need to read the labels!

  2. My daughter is 9, and last year we had to have her hand x-rayed to check for an abnormal growth rate. The reason was because she was starting to grow breast buds at 8 years old!!! The results came back “normal”, but I knew something needed to change in our home. I have heard of all sorts of problems it could be ( milk and meats with hormones for example). Plastic was never something I came across as a possible reason, or that even crossed my mind! But it makes sense! Thank you for this post!!! Ive been eliminating plastics in our kitchen slowly but surly, and THIS gives me yet another great reason to just get it all out right now.

    • Rachel Sarnoff says:

      Oh thanks for sharing your story, Annie! I hope your daughter is okay. Also look out for BPA in cans, and plastic bottles. It’s okay once in a while, but trying to control how many of these endocrine disruptors our kids are exposed to is a really good thing. Thank you! 🙂

Trackbacks

  1. […] look out for phthalates, parabens and synthetic fragrances—these are all endocrine disruptors that cause the kind of hormonal changes linked to breast cancer. Second, if you do pick up a breast cancer pink ribbon product, take a minute to find out how […]

  2. […] are softened with phthalates, which even at low levels have been linked to obesity and asthma. And BPA, used to harden plastics, is a hormone disruptor; it mimics estrogen in the body and has been linked to obesity, anxiety and a brain tumor called […]

  3. […] look out for phthalates, parabens and synthetic fragrances—these are all endocrine disruptors that cause the kind of hormonal changes linked to breast cancer. Second, if you do pick up a breast cancer pink ribbon product, take a minute to find out how […]

  4. […] BPA, used to harden plastics, is a hormone disruptor; it mimics estrogen in the body and has been linked to obesity, anxiety and a brain tumor called […]

  5. […] Identify endocrine disruptors: PVC (also known as vinyl), synthetic perfume (“fragrance,” on a label) and most plastics contain endocrine disruptors, which typically mimic estrogen in the body and have been linked to cancer. […]

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