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Study: Exposure To Chemicals In Toothpaste, Shampoo, May Accelerate Puberty In Girls

December 22, 2018

The findings of a longitudinal study by the School of Public Health (SPH) at UC-Berkeley suggest that exposure to certain chemicals in personal care products like toothpaste that can act as hormone blockers may cause girls to begin puberty at an earlier-than-normal age. The results were published in the most recent edition of Human Reproduction, a scientific journal published by Oxford University Press.

According to the SPH, the data were collected over years as researchers followed the development of 338 children from birth to adolescence. All data were drawn from the Center for the Health of Mothers and Children of Salinas (CA) study, or CHAMACOS, that began in 1999.

“Over the past 20 years, studies have shown that girls and possibly boys have been experiencing puberty at progressively younger ages. This is troubling news, as earlier age at puberty has been linked with increased risk of mental illness, breast and ovarian cancer in girls and testicular cancer in boys,” the SPH reported.

Researchers at the SPH focused in part on exposure to diethyl phthalate, which is found in “fragrances and cosmetics,” and triclosan, an “antimicrobial agent” that was permitted in hand soaps until the FDA banned it in 2017, though it is still permitted to be used in toothpastes, the SPH reports.

According to the SPH, researched found “that daughters of mothers who had higher levels of diethyl phthalate and triclosan in their bodies during pregnancy experienced puberty at younger ages. The same trend was not observed in boys.”

The SPH reports that in the urine samples taken of women and children in the study, a “vast majority”, or more than 90%, showed traces of diethyl phthalate, though only about 70% showed traces of triclosan.

The SPH writes:

“The researchers found that every time the concentrations of diethyl phthalate and triclosan in the mother’s urine doubled, the timing of developmental milestones in girls shifted approximately one month earlier. Girls who had higher concentrations of parabens in their urine at age 9 also experienced puberty at younger ages. However, it is unclear if the chemicals were causing the shift, or if girls who reached puberty earlier were more likely to start using personal care products at younger ages.”

“While more research is needed, people should be aware that there are chemicals in personal care products that may be disrupting the hormones in our bodies,” said SPH assistant professor Kim Harley, who is quoted in the SPH release.

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