It's Not Good to Grow Up Too Early
Parents are taking action—in their homes and in the community—to protect girls from developing too soon
"My daughter developed ‘breast buds’ (hard lumps under the nipple that are the first signs of breast development) when she was seven,” says California mom Susie Shane. “I freaked out! It was just a hunch, but I got rid of all the plastic we used. We used to drink out of those hard plastic bottles and reuse water bottles. At school she got hot lunch that was cooked in plastic. I didn’t know what else to do.”
To Shane’s surprise, “the breast buds went away within three or four weeks and didn’t come back for two years.”
After that, Shane started reading up on the rising rates of “early puberty”—more and more very young girls developing and getting their periods. Shane, whose daughter is black, was shocked to learn that, on average, “black girls reach puberty a year earlier than white girls.”
Causes of early puberty include obesity and low birth-weight (both on the rise), certain kinds of stress, and some of the chemicals in plastics, pesticides, and other products. (see The Falling Age of Puberty in U.S. Girls).
Early puberty is dangerous
Shane also learned that “girls who reach puberty early are at much greater risk for breast cancer. And there are other health risks—diabetes and cardiovascular disease.”
And she worried about “the social effect. Girls who reach puberty early are at increased risk of drug and alcohol use, early sexual activity and pregnancy, low self-esteem and suicide. It’s not good to grow up too early! It’s better to be a little girl until your brain is (more) developed.”
Chemicals in our food
Shane learned about chemicals that cause early puberty, including phthalates (some types now banned by a federal law signed in August) and Bisphenol-A (BPA), which is used to harden plastic products and line food cans. She’s suspicious of all plastic—a friend also eliminated plastic when her young daughter developed pubic hair, and the pubic hair disappeared. But, Shane says, plastic with recycling numbers 3 and 7 are the “known evils.” There are alternatives—glass or metal containers for food and water, pottery or glass for use in microwaves.
Reprinted with the permission of the Action Alliance for Children.
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