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Will Boys Mature Faster When Exposed to Pesticide?

A pyrethroid pesticide can increase the likelihood of a boy going through puberty at an unusually young age.
Public domain from https://phil.cdc.gov/Phil/details.asp image id#8923 credit James Gathany

Scientists have found a type of pesticide that disrupts the endocrine system. Pyrethroids are synthetic chemicals similar to naturally-occurring pyrethrin. Like pyrethrin, the pyrethroids repel or kill insects. They now account for approximately 30 percent of the pesticide used world-wide.

How Do Pyrethroids Affect Hormones?

Chinese scientists report that such compounds speed the onset of puberty in males. They studied 463 boys between 9 and 16. Those with higher urinary levels of a pyrethroid-derived compound were far more likely to be at an advanced stage of genital development. (The compound is called 3-phenoxybenzoic acid, or 3-PBA.) Early puberty and sexual maturation can put a boy at a disadvantage socially, however.

Pyrethroids Speed Up Puberty in Lab Mice:

Mouse studies confirmed that pyrethroids hasten the onset of puberty. Such compounds push the body to make more testosterone than it otherwise would. As a result, the researchers urge caution in using this type of pesticide around children.

Liu et al, Endocrine Society annual meeting, Orlando, FL, April 1, 2017

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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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