Remember 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.
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:
- On the go, drink water from a stainless steel bottle, not plastic.
- Reduce the amount of canned food your family eats, and when you do, make sure it’s BPA-free.
- Wash your hands when you come home to reduce the amount of toxic substances like BPA that you ingest from hand-to-mouth exposure.
- 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.
- Don’t microwave meals in plastic containers or wraps; store food in glass or dishware, especially if it’s warm.
- 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.