Chemicals in shampoo and perfumes may cause early puberty in girls

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Featured image for Shampoo And Perfume Causes Girls To Hit Puberty Faster Says Study

"While more research is needed, people should be aware that there are chemicals in personal care products that may be disrupting the hormones in our bodies", Harley said.

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

Many chemicals have been linked to early puberty in animal studies including phthalates, which are often found in scented products like perfumes, soaps and shampoos; parabens, which are used as preservatives in cosmetics; and phenols, which include triclosan, researchers note in Human Reproduction.

Phthalates, parabens and triclosan are not banned for use in personal care products, and there isn't solid evidence yet that they cause health effects in humans, Harley said by email.

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". Boys were seemingly unaffected by prenatal exposure to the chemicals, according to the study.

Researchers in the School of Public Health found that daughters of mothers who had higher levels of diethyl phthalate and triclosan in their bodies during pregnancy experienced puberty at younger ages.

"The fact that we find associations with earlier puberty in girls is additionally concerning", Harley said.

The long-term study was carried out on 388 children and their mothers between 1999 and 2000.

They followed 338 of their children from birth to adolescence.

The chemical was measured in the mothers' urine between 14 and 27 weeks of pregnancy.

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A total of 179 girls and 159 boys were tested every nine months between the ages of nine and 13, using Tanner staging.

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.

For every doubling of triclosan in the mothers' urine, the timing of the girls' first menstrual period shifted earlier by just under a month.

Half of the girls in the study started growing pubic hair when they were at least 9.2 years old and then began menstruating when they were 10.3 years old, the study found. Chemicals like phthalates are the main culprits.

"In laboratory studies, these chemicals have been shown to cause earlier puberty in rats, but there are very few studies in humans".

The vast majority - more than 90 percent - of urine samples of both mothers and children showed detectable concentrations of all three classes of chemicals, with the exception of triclosan which was present in approximately 70 percent of samples.

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 USA but are only for industrial use in Britain.

Most had no high school diploma and lived below the United States federal poverty threshold.

When the researchers started the study 20 years ago, they were primarily interested in the effects of pesticides, which is why they chose this group of women.

Prof Harley said: "But we always knew we would have the opportunity to examine other chemical exposures".

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