Shampoos, chemicals in food cans 'could be linked to early puberty in girls' | Alastair Jamieson | 04/08/10

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Researchers investigating the use of phenols, phthalates and phytoestrogens, used in packaging as well as perfumes, lotions and shampoos, has found evidence they can cause harm by interfering with the body's hormones.

A study of the effects of the three compounds on 1,151 pre-pubescent girls in the US found they caused a variety of problems in puberty.

Dr Mary Wolff, an oncologist at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, said: "Research has shown that early pubertal development in girls can have adverse social and medical effects, including cancer and diabetes later in life.

"Our research shows a connection between chemicals that girls are exposed to on a daily basis and either delayed or early development. While more research is needed, these data are an important first step in continuing to evaluate the impact of these common environmental agents in putting girls at risk."

The chemicals increase durability in nail polishes and add fragrance to perfumes, lotions, and shampoos. Some are also used to increase the flexibility of plastics such as PVC, and as coatings on medications and nutritional supplements.

Phthalates are banned in cosmetics in Europe but are allowed in the United States.

The girls were aged between six and eight when they were recruited and seven to nine when their urine samples were analyzed for phenols, phthalates and phytoestrogens.

The study, published in Environmental Health Perspectives, found all three chemicals were widely detectable and high exposure to certain ones were associated with early breast development. The strongest links were seen with phthalates and phytoestrogens, which were also among the most common.

One phenol, two phytoestrogens, and a subset of phthalates found in building products and plastic tubing were associated with later puberty. But the phthalates found in personal products such as lotion and shampoo, especially those with fragrance, were related to earlier breast and pubic hair development.

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