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Puberty at the Age of 8

girls, children, youngU.S. girls are reaching puberty at younger ages than ever before. In the 1990s, breast development -- the first sign of puberty in girls -- at age 8 was considered an abnormal event that should be investigated by an endocrinologist.

However, by 1999, following a 1997 study that found almost half of African Americans and 15 percent of whites had begun breast development by age 8, the Lawson Wilkins Pediatric Endocrine Society suggested changing what is viewed as “normal.”

They suggested changing puberty at age 8 from abnormal to normal, and lowering the abnormal puberty age to 7 for white girls and 6 for African American girls.

But while some experts believe the shift is nothing to worry about, others, including parents, are alarmed.

Early puberty, which exposes girls to estrogen for more of their lives, is linked to breast cancer and other health risks, but scientists are at a loss of how to study the potential causes for early puberty, which include:
  • Hormones in food
  • Pesticides in produce
  • Phthalates in plastics and cosmetics
  • Obesity, which exposes girls to more estrogen
  • Stress from living in a fatherless household
  • Sexually suggestive TV shows
Conducting a study to test these factors is next to impossible because there are so many estrogen-like chemicals in the environment that there are no control populations to balance out the study.

And while scientists grapple with how to figure out what’s causing girls to develop at younger and younger ages, parents are forced to have adult conversations with their children much sooner than expected.
Dr. Mercola's Comments:
Instead of acknowledging that girls reaching puberty at increasingly younger ages is a sign that something is wrong, some “experts” would rather just change the definition of what’s considered normal!

Well, that sure is one approach to the problem. If you don’t like the facts just change the definition and your facts instantly change.

In reality, something is wrong, very wrong, when 5-, 6- and 8-year-old girls are starting puberty. Some studies have even found girls as young as 2 who are starting sexual development.

Not only do these children have to deal with an unfairly increased risk of breast cancer down the road, but they lose precious years of their childhood because their bodies have matured faster than their minds.

The signs of precocious puberty (aka early sexual development) include:

For girls before age 8:
  • Breasts
  • Armpit or pubic hair
  • First menstruation
For boys before age 9:
  • Enlarged testicles and penis
  • Armpit or pubic hair
  • Facial hair
This is clearly a multi-faceted problem. As increasing numbers of children struggle to keep to a healthy weight, obesity and overweight could very well be playing a role.

Overweight children have increased amounts of insulin, an increased ability to convert hormones into estrogen and an increased ability to store environmental toxins, all of which could contribute to early puberty.

Then again, your children may be exposed to hormone-mimicking chemicals before they are even born.

"Thanks to their mothers' exposure, even babies in the womb have measurable doses of the hormone-mimicking chemicals," said Theo Colborn, author of Our Stolen Future, which is one of the BEST resources on this topic.

Environmental Chemicals Can Mimic Your Hormones

Endocrine-disrupting chemicals affect your hormones, which control development and function in your body. There is mounting evidence that they can cause harm in the development of fetuses and children, who are particularly sensitive to the chemicals because they have not yet developed the protective mechanisms present in adult bodies.

Where are these man-made chemicals found?
Other environmental chemicals like PCBs and DDE (a breakdown product of the pesticide DDT) may also be associated with early sexual development in girls. Both DDE and PCBs are known to mimic, or interfere with, sex hormones.

Some misinformed moms are even feeding their vulnerable babies soy infant formula, which exposes their child to the equivalent of five birth control pills’ worth of estrogen every day. For this same reason, it’s also important for pregnant women to avoid eating soy, as a high estrogenic environment in utero may increase their child’s subsequent breast cancer risk. 

Remember that your children can be exposed to these chemicals directly, or they can be exposed while they’re still in the womb. So if you’re a woman who is planning to have children, it’s crucial that you limit your exposure to these chemicals as much as possible by:
  • Storing your food in glass containers whenever possible, as it is the most inert container you can use.
  • Only using natural cleaning products in your home. Most health food stores will have these available or you can search online for them.
  • Avoiding processed foods, which are loaded with soy and other unsavory ingredients.
  • Switching to natural brands of toiletries, including shampoo, toothpaste, antiperspirants, and cosmetics. Use the same sources as above for these, either your local health food store or you can search online.