There are many theories surrounding the increases in early puberty in young girls and boys, but while the causes are unclear, the rise in numbers is certainty. Precocious puberty, defined as the onset of signs of puberty before age 7 or 8 in girls and 9 in boys, can be physically and emotionally difficult. Puberty occurs during adolescence and usually begins happening at age 10 for girls and 12 for boys.
A 2010 study showed that girls had high rates of breast stage 2 development at ages 7 and 8. (The Tanner stages is a scale of physical development based on 5 stages. Stage 1 is pre-pubertal, stage 2 is onset, and stage 5 is adult.) A top theory among experts is that girls who have a high-fat diet and are not active or are obese are more likely to mature early. That could be the primary driver because estrogen, which triggers puberty, is stored in fat tissue. It helps explain why early puberty is more common in females than in males.
It is believed that environmental exposure to chemicals, such as pesticides and endocrine-disrupting chemicals like bisphenol A (BPA), found in plastics, also may play a role in early puberty. BPA is used primarily in the production of polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins. These plastics are used in some food and drink containers; the resins are used as lacquers to coat metal products such as food cans, bottle tops, and water supply pipes.
Another aspect in early puberty is growth hormones (GH) in the food supply. Hormones allow for greater yields of lean muscle meat and higher milk production, thereby feeding more people at less cost. GH is a protein hormone produced in the pituitary gland of animals, including humans, and is essential for normal growth, development and health. Recombinant bovine growth hormone or rBGH, which is used to increase milk output, is a genetically engineered growth hormone. It is banned from use in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and all EU countries, yet the Food and Drug administration approved rBGH for sale in the U.S.
These concerns and many others have contributed to the rise in consumption of organic foods, including hormone-free meat and milk, as well as pesticide-free vegetables. Another trend is people taking the time to cook at home while avoiding processed foods. This problem is not going to go away soon. Please protect your kids as much as you can from these harmful toxins.