Phenols, phthalates, and phytoestrogens may affect pubertal development in teenage girls. 

Dr. Mary Wolff, Professor of Preventive Medicine and Oncological Sciences at Mount Sinai School of Medicine and a team from Mount Sinai's departments of Pediatrics and Microbiology recruited 1,151 girls from East Harlem, New York (a unique minority population considered high risk), greater Cincinnati and northern California. Working with Cincinnati Children's Hospital and Kaiser Permanente Northern California, they analysed the impact of exposure to environmental agents.

The girls were between 6- and 8-years-old at enrollment and between 7 and 9 at analysis. The researchers collected urine samples from the participants and analysed them, using 19 differnet bio-markes, for phenols, phthalates, and phytoestrogens.

The data showed that these chemical compounds were widely detectable in the girls, and that high exposure to some was associated with early breast development. The strongest links were seen with phthalates and phytoestrogens, which were also among the highest exposures. One phenol, two phytoestrogens, and a subset of phthalates (found in plastic tubing and building products) were associated with later puberty. Phthalates found in personal care products (shampoos, body lotions and, especially fragrances), were associated with to earlier breast and pubic hair development.

Researchers also found that body-mass index (BMI) played a role in the onset of puberty; about a third of the girls were overweight, which is also an indicator of early breast development.

Mary S. Wolff et al. Investigation of Relationships between Urinary Biomarkers of Phytoestrogens, Phthalates, and Phenols and Pubertal Stages in Girls. Environmental Health Perspectives, 2010


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First Published in My 2005

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