Toxic dichlorobenzene causes 7 months earlier puberty in girls

September 14, 2012

English: Girl walking in a beach. Porto Covo, ...

There are so many toxic chemicals used in products, that it is hard to keep track of them all.  Toxic dichlorobenzene is a one such chemical I have never heard of nor is in any products that I use, yet I don’t doubt it would show up in a body burden test.  In the 1990s, nearly every one tested by the CDC did host this chemical in their bodies.  Exposure is from indoor air quality.

Our toxic environment is changing our bodies, literally. The age girls are experiencing their first menstruations has shifted dramatically over the last 100 years. When I experienced this first hand as a teacher (a first grader got her period!), I logically blamed hormones in milk products or plastic chemicals. They are hormones and hormone disruptors, right?  But it’s not that simple. There are many chemicals contributing to earlier periods, and a new one has just been identified. explains:

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.

It is crazy to think of what chemicals are bodies host from products we do not even use.   Even though we use only natural home cleaning products, we are exposed when we go into stores, schools, libraries, etc.  We are only just beginning to see the consequences to our health.

Environmental Health News contributes:

“This study adds to the growing body of scientific research that exposure to environmental chemicals may be associated with early puberty,” said Danielle Buttke, a reproductive physiologist at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention who was the study’s lead author…

Buttke said the role that environmental factors may play in the timing of puberty is not easy to tease out but it’s a serious public health issue that warrants further study. Early menarche raises the risk of developing breast cancer and other diseases in adulthood.

The CDC study found no change in the menstruation age caused by BPA, another suspected culprit, yet it cannot be entirely ruled out from one study. Researchers factored in racial differences and weight, which have previously been cited as a causes of earlier onset of puberty, when calculating the results of dichlorobenzene exposure.  They found blacks and hispanics had higher rates of dichlorobenzene in their blood than whites, which makes me wonder if socioeconomics plays into this particular chemical’s exposure, like it does with so many others.

This study raises questions, and results are not entirely conclusive.  Many of the girls studied were already menstruating, which may affect they way their bodies metabolize the chemical, for instance.

Most likely, there is not one single toxic culprit for the changes we see in the onset of puberty.  A combination of chemicals, health concerns, and epigenetics all come into play.  Identifying a single chemical responsible is really moot, considering all toxic chemicals have some effect on our health and environment.

It is time for chemical products, like cleaners and air fresheners, to come with warning labels like cigarettes. We need Surgeon General warnings on the toxic products so common in homes.

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Toxic dichlorobenzene causes 7 months earlier puberty in girls  from: Eco Child’s Play

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