Chemicals used in cosmetics 'may be causing early puberty in girls'

Chemicals found in lipstick, nail varnish and deodorant could be causing early puberty in girls, a long-running study of mothers and their daughters suggests.

The research found a linear relationship between exposure of phthalates, parabens and phenols and the onset of puberty in girls. There was no similar observation in boys.

Phthalates are found in scented products such as perfumes, deodorants, soaps, shampoo, nail polish and cosmetics while parabens are often used as preservatives in cosmetics and other personal care products. Phenols are mostly found in soap, toothpaste, lipsticks, hairsprays, shampoos and skin lotion to increase the durability of the products.

Dr Kim Harley, associate professor in public health at the University of California, Berkeley, US, who led the study, said: “We found evidence that some chemicals widely used in personal care products are associated with earlier puberty in girls.

“Specifically, we found mothers who had higher levels of two chemicals in their bodies during pregnancy – diethyl phthalate, which is used in fragrance, and triclosan, which is an antibacterial agent in certain soaps and toothpaste – had daughters who entered puberty earlier.

In Europe girls are reaching maturity earlier than ever, with the average age dropping from 11 to 10 in the last 15 years. In the 1920s it was 14.6 years.

Early puberty is of concern because it increases their risk of mental health problems and risk-taking behaviour as teenagers and increases their risk of breast and ovarian cancer.

“One hypothesis is that chemicals in the environment might be playing a role, and our findings support this idea,” added Dr Harley. (© Daily Telegraph London)

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