Our Stolen Futurea book by Theo Colborn, Dianne Dumanoski, and John Peterson Myers



New findings on the timing of sexual maturity in people

Data on trends in humans are limited. A landmark study by Herman-Giddens et al. suggests the age of puberty in girls has decreased in the US. Other studies of specific populations reveal associations between early sexual development and exposure to contaminations. Some case histories in medicine document the ability of estrogen containing compounds to alter the pace and pattern of sexual development in boys and girls.



Blanck, HM, M Marcus, PE Tolbert, C Rubin, AK Henderson, VS Hertzberg, RH Zhang and L Cameron. 2000. Age at menarche and Tanner stage in girls exposed in utero and postnatally to polybrominated biphenyl. Epidemiology 11:641-647.

In a study of girls exposed in the womb and through breastfeeding to PBBs because of a food contamination incident in Michigan in 1973, Blanck et al. report that elevated PBB levels are associated with earlier menstruation and early pubic hair appearance, but not early breast development. More...

Colón, I, D Caro, CJ Bourdony and O Rosario. 2000. Identification of Phthalate Esters in the Serum of Young Puerto Rican Girls with Premature Breast Development. Environmental Health Perspectives 108:895-900.

Colón et al. show that young girls in Puerto Rico suffering from premature thelarche carry blood levels of the phthalate DEHP almost 7-fold higher than controls from the same area. The authors suggest that this anti-androgen may be intefering with sexual development in young girls. More...

Herman-Giddens, ME, EJ Slora, RC Wasserman, CJ Bourdony, MV Bhapkar, GG Koch and CH Hasemeier. 1997. Secondary sexual characteristics and menses in young girls seen in office practice: a study from the Pediatric Research in Office Settings Network. Pediatrics 99(4):505-512.

Herman-Giddens et al. report that girls in the United States are developing pubertal characteristics earlier than currently-used norms. Inadequacies of earlier studies make it impossible to reach certain conclusions, but based on these data, it would appear that white girls in the current study appear "to be developing 6 months to 1 year sooner than girls in these earlier studies." More...

Halperin, DS and PC Sizonenko. 1983. Prepubertal gynecomastia following topical inunction of estrogen containing ointment. Helv. paediat. Acta 38:361-366.

Halperin and Sizonenko describe the case of a boy and his sister, both of whom displayed signs of breast development, the boy at age 6, the girl at age 10. It was discovered that they had been imitating their mother by applying an ointment, Percutatrine, which contained estrone, DES and extracts of ovaries. The mother had been applying the ointment to develop her own breast. As soon as this exposure was discovered it was terminated. The girl's sexual development then returned to normal.The boy's breast development persisted for about 3 years after his examination but thereafter was normal, except that his nipples remained hyperpigmented.

Beas, F, L Vargas, RP Spada and N Merchak. 1969. Pseudoprecocious puberty in infants caused by a dermal ointment containing estrogens. The Journal of Pediatrics 75:127-130.

Beas et al. describe infants showing manifestations of early puberty that were caused by application of an ointment, Vas-Vit, to the skin. Tests of the estrogenicity of the ointment confirmed its biological activity. Once application of the ointment stopped, symptoms of early puberty regressed.






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