The People's Perspective on Medicine

Do Personal Care Products Speed Up Puberty?

A large study in California found that girls exposed to high levels of endocrine disruptors from personal care products went through puberty early.

Many personal care products such as soaps, shampoos, deodorants, perfumes and cosmetics contain endocrine-disrupting chemicals. These include phthalates, parabens and phenols such as triclosan, which is used as an antibacterial ingredient in toothpaste and soap. Endocrine disruptors trick body tissues into reacting to them as though they were hormones. This can interfere with the normal and appropriate action of hormones.

How Do Personal Care Products Affect the Timing of Puberty?

A new study published in the journal Human Reproduction tracked more than 300 children from before birth through adolescence (Human Reproduction, Dec. 3, 2018). The scientists measured levels of phenols, phthalates and parabens in mothers’ urine during pregnancy. They analyzed the children’s urine and hormonal development between the ages of nine and thirteen.

Girls exposed to higher levels of these compounds prenatally entered puberty earlier. All of these chemicals from personal care products are estrogen mimics, which probably explains why girls were strongly affected and boys were not.

Nonstick Coatings Affect Male Sexual Development:

A separate study, however, showed that boys are also at risk if exposed to certain chemicals. Italian scientists found that perfluoroalkyl compounds (PFCs) are linked to reduced penis size and less mobile sperm. These chemicals are used to make nonstick cookware, grease-proof food packaging and stain-resistant fabrics for upholstery. The researchers took advantage of PFC contamination of water in the Veneto, the part of Italy that surrounds Padua and Venice. Young men from this region showed these abnormalities of sexual development not apparent in men from other parts of Italy  (Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, online Nov. 6, 2018). Those with higher levels of PFCs in their seminal fluid had poor semen quality and shortened anogenital distance.

The investigators also performed laboratory experiments that showed two PFCs in particular, PFOA and PFOS, bind to cells’ receptors for testosterone. This keeps testosterone out of the cells and interferes with its activity.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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Some everyday compounds can interfere with the proper function of our hormones. Such endocrine disruptors can have profound impacts on health.

Show 1102: How Do Endocrine Disruptors Affect Your Health?
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