Chemicals in cosmetics, soaps tied to early puberty in girls

(Reuters Health) - - Girls who are exposed before birth to chemicals commonly found in toothpaste, makeup, soap and other personal care products may hit puberty earlier than their peers who aren’t exposed to these chemicals in the womb, a U.S. study suggests. 

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. While this is thought to interfere with sex hormones and puberty timing, few studies have explored this connection in human children. 

For the current study, researchers followed 338 children from birth through adolescence. They tested mothers’ urine during pregnancy and interviewed them about potential chemical exposures, then tested kids’ urine for chemical exposure at 9 years old and examined children for signs of puberty development every nine months between ages 9 and 13 years. 

Over 90 percent of kids’ urine samples showed concentrations of all the potentially hormone-altering chemicals, except for triclosan, which was found in 73 percent of pregnant mothers’ urine samples and 69 percent of their kids’ urine samples. 

For every doubling in concentration of a phthalate indicator in mothers’ urine, their daughters developed pubic hair an average of 1.3 months earlier, the study found. And with every doubling of mothers’ urine concentrations of triclosan, girls started menstruating one month earlier. 

Boys’ puberty timing didn’t appear to be influenced by prenatal exposure to these chemicals. 

“There has been considerable concern about why girls are entering puberty earlier and hormone disrupting chemicals like the ones in personal care products that we studied have been suggested as one possible reason,” said lead study author Kim Harley, associate director of the Center for Environmental Research and Children’s Health at the University of California, Berkeley. 

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. 

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.

But the current results add to increasing evidence from lab studies that suggests these chemicals can disrupt or interfere with natural hormones in the body like estrogen, Harley added. 

“The fact that we find associations with earlier puberty in girls is additionally concerning,” Harley said. “The good news is, that if women want to reduce their exposure to these chemicals, there are steps they can take.” 

Triclosan is no longer allowed in antibacterial soap in the U.S., but it is still in toothpaste, Harley said. Consumers should make sure it’s not a listed ingredient on any toothpaste they buy, she advised. 

Parabens are also on the ingredients list, often as methyl paraben, or propyl paraben, and consumers should avoid these products, too, Harley said. 

Diethyl phthalate is harder to avoid, however, because it isn’t listed on labels and is often used in fragrances, Harley said. 

The study wasn’t designed to prove whether or how prenatal exposure to these chemicals might have caused early puberty. And one limitation of the study is that researchers lacked data to know if girls going through puberty might be more likely to use these personal care products, and be directly exposed that way, the study authors note.“The effects of these chemicals are very complex,” said Dr. Luz Claudio of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City. 

“Their effects on the hormonal system is different with different chemicals, they have different potencies, their effects can be modulated by other factors such as genetic predisposition, and importantly, their effects can be different depending on the timing of the exposure,” Claudio, who wasn’t involved in the study, said by email. “With that said, this and other studies, together with the laboratory experimental evidence point to potential effects on children.” 

SOURCE: Human Reproduction, online December 3, 2018.

These Illustrations Totally Nail How Difficult The Grief Process Is

Grief is a profoundly difficult experience that most people will have to endure at some point. And while this doesn’t make dealing with grief any easier, it does help to know that you’re not alone in how you feel.

Case in point? These accurate illustrations from artist Mari Andrew. After going through the grieving process when her father died, she focused some of her artwork on the subject to help her heal and connect with others.

”It’s different for everyone, but my personal experience is that grief doesn’t ever go away, but it does change shape and it becomes something you can hold rather than something that overwhelms you ― a part of you, rather than a burden,” Andrew wrote in one of her Instagram captions.

Her point is an important one: Each person processes grief differently and there’s no one “correct” way to mourn. But while people may deal with grief in different ways, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t deserve to be monitored overall. A major loss can cause all kinds of physiological symptoms, and it’s critical to keep tabs on them.

Some people grieve very hard, very quickly and then move on,” Dan Reidenberg, chair of the American Psychotherapy Association, previously told The Huffington Post. “Some people grieve privately. Some people grieve intermittently. Some people want to sleep a lot, some people want to talk.”

If you’re going through grief at the moment, seek solace in a couple of Andrew’s illustrations below, and check out these tips for handling loss. You’re certainly not carrying the burden by yourself.

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