Three of my young nieces.

Three of my young nieces, Labor Day Weekend 2009.

Janice Horowitiz’ “Dueling Docs” feature at Huffington Post today is about the issue of girls reaching puberty at increasingly earlier ages than previous generations. Both Dr. Alisan Goldfarb and Dr. Stephen Safe talk about endocrine disruptors such as BPA (bisphenol-A, a carcinogenic component of some plastics found in some baby bottles and water containers) and pesticides. Certainly both types of chemicals are likely to be a factor in early menarche, but I find it surprising that those are the only factors mentioned. There’s no discussion of the roles of psychosocial stressors, low birth weight, or formula feeding. Neither physician gives serious consideration to the endocrine disruptors that are the hormones used in raising beef and dairy cattle as well as chicken in this country; Dr. Safe acknowledges that “[a]lmost all foods have endocrine disruptors”, but qualifies that statement with, “particularly fruits and vegetables.” (Do you suppose the beef and dairy lobby advertise at Huffington Post?)

For a more thorough, nuanced analysis of this issue, see Sandra Steingraber’s report, The Falling Age of Puberty in U.S. Girls: What We Know, What We Need to Know, published in 2007 by the Breast Cancer Fund. Among other findings, Steingraber reports that new research has revealed that the amount of natural hormones a child’s body produces on its own is much lower than previously estimated; this means “safe levels” of exposure to synthetic hormones and endocrine disruptors must be recalibrated, and policy modified accordingly.

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