[Pharmwaste] Green City: Early puberty's toxic causes and effects - New report links chemicals to problematic early development

DeBiasi,Deborah dldebiasi at deq.virginia.gov
Tue Nov 27 15:38:15 EST 2007


Green City: Early puberty's toxic causes and effects
New report links chemicals to problematic early development

By Jessika Fruchter

> news at sfbg.com

GREEN CITY As if growing up weren't hard enough, a new report published
by San Francisco's Breast Cancer Fund says girls, particularly African
American girls, are hitting puberty earlier - and it's lasting longer.

Environmental toxins, obesity, and psychological stressors are all cited
as possible reasons for the trend in the report written by Ithaca
College professor Sandra Steingraber. It was commissioned about a year
ago to put together what she calls "pieces of a big jigsaw puzzle."

Steingraber found that many girls now start to develop breasts as early
as eight years old - two years earlier than they did a few decades ago.
On average, however, girls begin menstruating only a few months earlier
than they once did - making puberty a lengthier process.

The consequences of growing up too soon are serious - depression and
anxiety, eating disorders, sexual objectification, and early drug and
alcohol abuse are just a few.

"As a mother of a nine-year-old girl," Steingraber says, "I was really
impressed by the consequences, not just the causes. The world is not a
good place for early-maturing girls."

The implications are not just psychological. According to Steingraber's
report, menarche before age 12 raises breast cancer risk by 50 percent.

"The data is pretty ample linking the two," she says. "The earlier a
girl gets her breasts, the wider the estrogen window." Longer lifetime
exposure to estrogen increases the risk of developing many forms of
breast cancer.

Steingraber points to obesity and endocrine-disrupting chemicals (toxins
that interfere with the hormonal system) as major factors in the new
puberty equation. Phthalates, bisphenol A, and dioxin are a few of the
culprits often cited by environmental health advocates as contributors
to earlier puberty onset. These chemicals are often found in cosmetics
and personal care products like shampoo, hand lotion, and sunscreen.
They are also used in pesticides.

Dr. Tracey Woodruff, associate professor of reproductive health and
environment at UC San Francisco, says the link has been researched and
discussed anecdotally in scientific circles for the past 10 years, with
the last major report issued in 1997.

A big obstacle to keeping kids safe, Woodruff says, is that most
consumer products are not required to undergo US Food and Drug
Administration approval before they are sold to the public, nor are
companies required to disclose all ingredients.

"How chemicals are governed is somewhat archaic," Woodruff says.

Environmental health activists agree. In 2002 a national coalition of
nonprofit organizations launched the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, an
initiative to educate the public and influence policy. Marisa Walker of
the Breast Cancer Fund - a founding member organization - says
manufacturers jump through big loopholes in federal law to hide
ingredients by claiming that chemicals are trade secrets.

An Environmental Protection Agency-administered program to test new
chemicals was created more than a decade ago, but progress has been slow
at best. In June the EPA announced it was still seeking comment on a
draft list of 73 pesticides to be evaluated under the new screening
program. Chemicals in consumer products are not slated for review.

The program has received widespread criticism, and in September the US
House Committee on Oversight and Reform issued a letter to the EPA
expressing its concern: "EPA's actions have been a continued failure to
protect the American public from these chemicals." The seven-page letter
also requests that the EPA take immediate action.

Meanwhile, Woodruff, Steingraber, and many environmental health
advocates point to Europe and neighboring Canada as better models of
protecting consumer health. Their policies have a heavier emphasis on
precaution. Woodruff says prevention can mean the difference between
responding to a change in hormone levels and coping with a birth defect.

"At what point is there enough information to take action?" Steingraber
asks. "Chemicals are turning up in the urine of some of these girls, and
while more research needs to be done, we can't even do more research
until the industry gives us more data. The time of saying, 'Hmmm, that's
interesting,' is over. It's time to take action." *

Wednesday November 21, 2007

Deborah L. DeBiasi
Email:   dldebiasi at deq.virginia.gov
WEB site address:  www.deq.virginia.gov
Virginia Department of Environmental Quality
Office of Water Permit Programs
Industrial Pretreatment/Toxics Management Program
Mail:          P.O. Box 1105, Richmond, VA  23218 (NEW!)
Location:  629 E. Main Street, Richmond, VA  23219
PH:         804-698-4028
FAX:      804-698-4032

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