Reaching puberty is a rite of passage that we’ve all been through, but children nowadays are reaching it earlier than ever before – a trend that has both health experts and parents alarmed Precocious puberty, which is the appearance of secondary sex characteristics like pubic hair or breast growth before age 8, or the onset of menarche before age 9, impacts at least 1 in 5,000 U.S. children, and the rate is on the rise.
Puberty, Once the Norm at Age 15, Now Occurring in 7-, 8- and 9-Year-Olds
During the 19th century, menstruation occurred at an average age of 15. Now a century later the average age for a first period is 12 years old. The years before and during puberty has been a rapid change, which is why even the months before matter when it comes to the first menstruation. Before menstruation, girls using start showing early signs of development like breast budding and pubic hair beginning to appear.
These sign are now have been common to girls who are between the age of 7 and 9, health providers are now labeling these children with a diagnosis, as they believe that something is not right. So is it normal for girls to mature at this young age?
There are so many questions that haven’t been answered when it comes to precocious puberty, but it is a fact that girls are developing much faster than they were 10 to 30 years ago.
A study that was published in the journal Pediatrics explained that girls by the age of 7 have started developing breast; this is the amount by race. 10 percent of white girls, 23 percent of black girls, 15 percent of Hispanic girls and 2 percent of Asian girls.
“The proportion of girls who had breast development at ages 7 and 8 years, particularly among white girls, is greater than that reported from studies of girls who were born 10 to 30 years earlier.”
Having puberty early can cause different emotional and behavioral problems and have been linked to lower self-esteem, depression, eating disorders, alcohol use, earlier loss of virginity, more sexual partners and increased risk of sexually transmitted diseases. These girls also have a higher risk of developing diabetes, heart disease and other cardiovascular diseases.
Environmental Chemicals a Likely Factor
Scientists have brought forth a number of potential explanations for the rising rates of early puberty, but one that deserves special attention is environmental chemicals, and particularly estrogen-mimicking, “gender-bending” chemicals that easily leach out of the products that contain them, contaminating everything they touch, including food and beverages.
As the featured New York Times article reported:
” .animal studies show that the exposure to some environmental chemicals can cause bodies to mature early. Of particular concern are endocrine-disrupters, like “xeno-estrogens” or estrogen mimics. These compounds behave like steroid hormones and can alter puberty timing.
For obvious ethical reasons, scientists cannot perform controlled studies proving the direct impact of these chemicals on children, so researchers instead look for so-called “natural experiments,” one of which occurred in 1973 in Michigan, when cattle were accidentally fed grain contaminated with an estrogen-mimicking chemical, the flame retardant PBB.
The daughters born to the pregnant women who ate the PBB-laced meat and drank the PBB-laced milk started menstruating significantly earlier than their peers.”
This is an extreme case, but the truth is we are all part of a “secret experiment” of sorts, because hormone-disrupting chemicals are all around us. Bisphenol A (BPA), an industrial petrochemical that acts as a synthetic estrogen, is found in our plastics and our tin can linings, in dental sealants and on cash-register receipts. Laboratory tests commissioned by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) detected BPA in the umbilical cord blood of 90 percent of newborn infants tested – along with more than 230 other chemicals. As written in theNew York Times:
“One concern, among parents and researchers, is the effect of simultaneous exposures to many estrogen-mimics, including the compound BPA, which is ubiquitous.”
No one really understands what occurs to a developing fetus when they are exposed to million different kinds of chemicals, many of these chemicals will mimic the body’s natural hormones which can trigger changes in the body that can effect a person all the way to adult hood, let alone during this most and vulnerable period of development (in utero and as a young child).
BPA is a perfect example, as others include phthalates, a group of industrial chemicals that are used to makes certain plastics like polyvinyl PVC more flexible and resistant. It has been one of the most pervasive of endocrine disrupters, that can be food just about everywhere like, food packaging, shower curtains, children’s toys and beauty products like nail polish, hair spray, shampoo deodorants and perfumes.
Other environmental chemicals like PCBs and DDE (a breakdown product of the pesticide DDT) may also be associated with early sexual development in girls. Both DDE and PCBs are known to mimic, or interfere with, sex hormones.
Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), found in non-stick cookware, also falls into this dangerous category, as does fluoride, which is added to the majority of public water supplies in the United States. Research showed that animals treated with fluoride had lower levels of circulating melatonin, as reflected by reduced levels of melatonin metabolites in the animals’ urine. This reduced level of circulating melatonin was accompanied – as might be expected – by an earlier onset of puberty in the fluoride-treated female animals.
These Chemicals Also Increase Your Risk of Cancer and Heart Disease
A new research has found a presence of paraben esters in about 99 percent of breast cancer tissue samples. Paraben is a chemical that has estrogen like properties; estrogen is one of the hormones that are not just found in breast cancer but also in puberty. Chemicals that contain this in just about every house hold are:
- Deodorants and antiperspirants
- Shampoos and conditioners
- Shaving gel
- Lotions and sunscreens
- Make-up / cosmetics
- Pharmaceutical drugs
Another study confirmed that that the presence of an unknown class of cancer causing mimic’s estrogen compounds: metals. A great range of metals have been shown to mimic metalloestrogens with the ability to add to the estrogenic burden in the human body, by doing this it can cause breast cancer and also be the reason why children are going through puberty at such a young age. The metals below have been added to many different kinds of consumer products one of which are vaccines. Vaccines have been examined and are able to bind to cellular estrogen receptors.
- Barium Cadmium
- Copper Lead
Data from a long-running British health survey, meanwhile, has shown that if you have high levels of the chemical BPA in your urine, you may be at an increased risk of heart disease. Some of the greatest concern surrounds early-life, in utero exposure to BPA, which can lead to chromosomal errors in your developing fetus, causing spontaneous miscarriages and genetic damage. But evidence is also very strong showing these chemicals are influencing adults and children, too, and leading to decreased sperm quality, early puberty, stimulation of mammary gland development, disrupted reproductive cycles and ovarian dysfunction, obesity, cancer and heart disease, among numerous other health problems.
Avoiding Hormone-Disrupting Substances is Crucial for Children and Adults Alike
Young girls can present obvious signs when they are exposed to hormone disrupting substances or early puberty, but other sign may not show up until the disease is already there. Here are 11 things you should implement right away to help protect you or children from toxic substance that are linked to precocious puberty and many other diseases:
- Buy and eat as much organic food as you can, organic meats will lowers your chances of having exposure to added hormone, pesticides and fertilizers. It’s best if you avoid any types of dairy products as they contain genetically engineered recombinants bovine growth hormone.
- Eat fresh fruit as processed for contain a large amount of say and other chemicals like BPA containing liners.
- Its best if you store your food in glass containers over plastic, avoid plastic wrap and canned foods.
- Buy and use glass baby bottles and BPA free sippy cups for your children.
- Make sure all the toys your children have are BPA free including pacifiers, teething rings and your child puts its mouth on.
- Use natural cleaners in your house to avoid phyhalates
- Change out all of your toiletries to natural ones, including shampoos, toothpaste, deodorants and cosmetics.
- Avoid using artificial air fresheners, as it can disrupt the hormone balance
- Replace all your pans from non stick to ceramic or glass cook ware
- Replace plastic shower curtains with material one
Vitamin D Also Linked to Early Puberty
It has been suggested that girls who live closer to the equator start puberty at a later age than girls who live in Northern regions. Since this indicates a potential connection with sun exposure, researchers decided to investigate whether vitamin D was, in fact, related. Upon measuring vitamin D levels in 242 girls aged 5-12, researchers from the University of Michigan School of Public Health found that those who were deficient were twice as likely to start menstruation during the study period as those with higher levels.
Specifically, among the vitamin-D-deficient girls, 57 percent started their period during the study, compared to 23 percent with adequate vitamin D. However, researchers defined adequate vitamin D as ≥ 30 ng/mL, which is actually still a deficiency state! For optimal health, vitamin D levels should be a minimum of 50 ng/mL, which means the number of vitamin-D-deficient girls with early puberty was probably much higher than the study reported.
The earlier you enter puberty, the longer you’re exposed to elevated levels of the female hormone estrogen, which is a risk factor for certain cancers such as breast cancer. This has been the primary “link” between early puberty and cancer that has been explored, but it’s important to understand that vitamin D deficiency is also a major risk factor for cancer, heart disease and many other diseases. So it could be that some of the increased risks that come from early puberty are linked to low vitamin D levels.
What You Should Know About Obesity, Stress and Exercise
Children who are obese are more exposed to estrogen as it can both be store and produced in fat tissue, which is another case for early puberty. The New York Times have stated:
“As Robert Lustig, a professor of clinical pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco’s Benioff Children’s Hospital, explains, fatter girls have higher levels of the hormone leptin, which can lead to early puberty, which leads to higher estrogen levels, which leads to greater insulin resistance, causing girls to have yet more fat tissue, more leptin and more estrogen, the cycle feeding on itself, until their bodies physically mature.”
Stress also is a big factor in early puberty are children who have parents that are going through a divorce between the ages of 3 and 8 are more likely to have precocious over other children who don’t go through this. “Evolutionary psychology offers a theory,” the New York Times reports. “A stressful childhood inclines a body toward early reproduction; if life is hard, best to mature young. But such theories are tough to prove.” Other than avoiding environmental chemical, obesity, stress, vitamin D, regular exercise are the best ways to prevent early puberty.