Today’s kids are awash in environmental toxins from conception on. Some of those chemicals are implicated in the ever-earlier onset of puberty plaguing many girls.
Over the last 100 years, the average age when puberty arrives fell from around 16 to 17 years of age to 12. It continues to drop. Experts say some of this can be attributed to better health. And some of it has to do with high rates of childhood obesity. But there’s a growing body of scientific evidence linking it to a variety of toxins.
The newest villian is dichlorobenzene. This chemical vaporizes into the air and is commonly used in air freshener, mothballs, and solid toilet bowl deodorizers. It’s harmful to the liver, kidneys, and respiratory tract. The study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that girls with higher levels of dichlorobenzene in their urine had their first period seven months earlier than girls with lower levels. An earlier CDC study found residue of this chemical in nearly every person they tested. Personally, I don’t know anyone who uses air fresheners, already associated with other health problems but apparently sales are booming. Even if we never use products containing this chemical in our homes, they are often found in public buildings. Awareness is important. So is an outright ban, now being discussed by the European Chemicals Agency.
Premature puberty is linked to other chemicals as well. Brominated flame retardants were implicated in a University of Cincinnati College of Medicine study. These flame retardants are widely used in electronics, carpets, paints, upholstery, and kitchen appliance. Chemicals such as bisphenol A (BPA), polybrominated biphenyls (PBB), and phthalates commonly found in plastics are also implicated. Toys and drinking bottles labeled as BPA and phthalate-free (even soy-based plastics) have been found to leach other hormone-disrupting chemicals.
Yes, a major shift is necessary to move toward a more sustainable world. Part of that has to do with our day-to-day choices. In my household we’ve never used any of the products containing dichlorobenzene although it’s regularly used in our public library’s bathrooms. (I’ll be talking to them about changing that policy.) Thankfully we don’t have the money for many of the new products that could bring toxins into our contact with our kids. (That shabby flooring and original paint is starting to look downright eco-friendly.) We grow lots of what we eat on our little farm and do our best to purchase organics through our local co-op. We use glass for most food storage and are starting to replace our travel mugs with Cuppow lids on mason jars. I’m far from perfect, and frankly don’t anticipate ever arriving there. Mostly because I don’t see myself giving up my electronics any time soon unless there’s a bamboo/hemp computer in the works. Whatever we’re doing here seems to be working. My daughter didn’t start her period until she was 12 1/2, about the same age my period started. This week I’m taking heart in the beautifully written book by Sandra Steingraber, Raising Elijah: Protecting Our Children in an Age of Environmental Crisis.
What works for you as you ease your way toward a less toxic lifestyle?
About Laura Grace Weldon
Laura Grace Weldon is a writer, editor, conflict resolution educator, and marginally useful farm wench. She is the author of Free Range Learning: How Homeschooling Changes Everything. She lives with her family on Bit of Earth Farm. Check out life on the farm at http://bitofearthfarm.wordpress.com/ and keep up with Laura’s relentless optimism at http://lauragraceweldon.com/blog-2/