Phenols, Phthalates and Phytoestrogen may Impact Female Development

Mount Sinai School of Medicine researchers have learned that exposure to three common chemical classes—<"">phenols, phthalates, and phytoestrogens—in young girls, can result in adverse physical effects, said Science Daily. For instance, girls may experience disruption in pubertal development, which can lead to later complications, added Science Daily.

The first-of-its-kind study looked at the effects of these chemical on pubertal development and appears online in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives. “Research has shown that early pubertal development in girls can have adverse social and medical effects, including cancer and diabetes later in life,” said Dr. Mary Wolff, Professor of Preventive Medicine and Oncological Sciences at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, quoted Science Daily. “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,” she added.

The chemicals are known as endocrine disruptors, which interfere with the endocrine—hormonal—system in the body and are found in many products. For instance, these chemicals can be found in nail polishes, because they increase the product’s durability; in cosmetics, perfumes, lotions, and shampoos, because they carry fragrance; in some plastics, such as PVC, because they add to both durability and flexibility; and in medication and supplement coatings because they enable time-release, explained Science Daily.

Dr. Wolff; co-principal investigator Susan Teitelbaum, PhD, Associate Professor, Preventive Medicine; and their team from Mount Sinai’s departments of Pediatrics and Microbiology looked at girls from New York City’s East Harlem, said Science Daily, explaining that the population there is considered high risk. The team worked with Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and Kaiser Permanente Northern California, analyzing exposure to environmental agents in a study of 1,151 girls from New York, greater Cincinnati, and northern California, noted Science Daily.

The girls ranged in age between six and eight at enrollment and between seven and nine at analysis, wrote Science Daily. Urine samples were collected and analyzed for phenols, phthalates, and phytoestrogens, with 19 separate urine biomarkers; results revealed that the chemicals appeared in detectable levels in the girls studied, said Science Daily. High exposure was linked to early breast development, especially with phthalates and phytoestrogens, while one phenol, two phytoestrogens, and a sub-set of phthalates were linked to later-onset puberty, added Science Daily, noting that phthalates found in personal products—lotions and shampoo, especially with fragrance—were linked to early breast and pubic hair development.

“We believe that there are certain periods of vulnerability in the development of the mammary gland, and exposure to these chemicals may influence breast cancer risk in adulthood,” Dr. Wolff said, quoted Science Daily.

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