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Do cosmetic chemicals trigger early puberty?
Hidden in toothpaste, make-up, soaps and other care products are chemicals lurking that are associated with premature onset of puberty. The decisive factor is not only whether the children use these products, but whether the mother used them during pregnancy. An international research team found this out in a study.
Over the past 20 years, statistics have shown that girls and possibly boys are approaching puberty earlier and earlier. Researchers at the School of Public Health have now found a possible reason for this development. According to the study results, a group of chemicals called endocrine disruptors is associated with the premature onset of puberty. These chemicals are often part of common care products. The study results were recently published in the Oxford Academic's Human Reproduction journal.
Early puberty poses health risks
The researchers emphasize that these results are worrying, since premature puberty is associated with numerous health risks later in life. This leads to increased breast and ovarian cancer in girls and testicular cancer in boys. In addition, the research group warns that there is a generally increased risk of developing a mental illness for both sexes.
Which chemicals are responsible?
The team was able to show that the two common ingredients in care products - diethyl phthalate and triclosan - trigger premature puberty in girls when they come into contact with the chemicals in the mother's belly. The relationship was much clearer in girls than in boys. For the long-term study, 338 children were accompanied from pregnancy to puberty and examined at regular intervals.
What care products are these ingredients in?
Triclosan acts against bacteria, fungi and certain viruses and is therefore used in various personal care products such as toothpaste, deodorants and soaps, but is also found in household cleaners and detergents. According to the researchers, diethyl phthalate is often used as a stabilizer in fragrances and cosmetics.
Do cosmetics influence our development?
"We know that some of the things we use to care for our bodies also get into our bodies - either because they go through the skin or because we breathe them in," said Professor Kim Harley of the School of Public Health in a press release to the Study results. The long-term effects of the substances are unknown for many chemicals. The research team suspects that many chemicals in personal care products can affect the natural hormones in our body.
The more chemistry, the earlier puberty
The researchers found that with increasing concentrations of diethyl phthalate and triclosan in the mother's urine during pregnancy, girls' puberty started earlier. Each time the concentration doubled, girls' puberty was one month early.
Parabens are also suspected
Furthermore, the parabens group of substances is suspected of causing puberty in young girls. These chemicals are found in many cosmetics, but are also used as food preservatives. The researchers observed that girls tend to premature puberty when they have a higher concentration of parabens in the urine at the age of nine.
Which came first - the chicken or the egg?
"However, it is unclear whether the parabens triggered the shift or whether girls who hit puberty earlier used personal care products in their younger years," said Harley. Although more research is needed in this area, people should know that there are substances in personal care products that can disrupt the hormones in our body, the expert concluded. Consumers who are concerned should take measures to limit exposure to such chemicals, the professor suggests. (vb)