By B.N. Frank
Opposition to the creation, use, and disposal of “Forever Chemicals” aka PFAS is increasing worldwide. Nevertheless, in November 2022, 100+ scientists accused the World Health Organization (WHO) of ignoring human health risks from exposure. In the U.S, some businesses are trying to thwart efforts toward legislation that would restrict use as well. Of course, that hasn’t stopped scientists from publishing more troubling research.
Young Girls Exposed To Forever Chemicals Could Experience Delayed Puberty, Study Warns
CINCINNATI, Ohio — Constant exposure to PFAS, commonly known as “forever chemicals,” may delay puberty for young girls, a new study reveals. A team from the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine explains that starting puberty later in life can introduce a number of health problems such as a higher risk for breast cancer, kidney disease, and thyroid disease.
“Puberty is a window of susceptibility,” says Dr. Susan Pinney, a researcher in the Department of Environmental and Public Health Sciences and co-author of the study, in a university release. “Environmental exposures during puberty, not just to PFAS, but anything, have more of a potential for a long-term health effect. What these have done is extended the window of susceptibility, and it makes them more vulnerable for a longer period of time.”
The research is the first to track the role of certain hormones during this puberty delay and how PFAS affects them. They followed the health of 823 girls between six and eight years-old and conducted exams every six to 12 months to see when they first showed signs of puberty — including the growth of pubic hair and breast development.
Overall, 85 percent of girls were exposed to measurable levels of PFAS. These chemicals are everywhere in society, coming off of everything from plastic water bottles to food wrappers. For girls with constant exposure, the authors observed a decrease in hormones, which could explain why these girls hit puberty five or six months later than the average.
“The study found that in girls with PFAS exposure puberty is delayed five or six months on average but there will be some girls where it’s delayed a lot more and others that it wasn’t delayed at all,” Pinney explains. “We are especially concerned about the girls at the top end of the spectrum where it’s delayed more.”
Additionally, a troubling finding was that over 99 percent of girls showed levels of PFOA, a group of chemicals that is linked to cancer and child development.
“The evidence of PFAS being dangerous goes all the way back to the 1980s when chemists were doing studies, noticed that PFAS had the same chemical structure as other dangerous chemicals and they reported on it,” Pinney says. “It’s taken a very long time for us to recognize it as a human toxin. Meanwhile, all of these toxins got into our environment, and it’s going to take a long time before they leave.”
PFAS and other forever chemicals take an excruciatingly long amount of time to degrade. While environmental chemists are working on ways to break up the contents of PFAS, scientists are nowhere near a solution. Pinney calls for new government regulations on forever chemicals like PFAS to protect children now.
“Scientists are frustrated with the slowness of movement to change regulatory guidelines. Not only do we need to publish our research findings, but also do our best to inform the general population and the health care community. Efforts toward environmental cleanup have begun but it is very costly.”
The study is published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.
Jocelyn is a New York-based science journalist whose work has appeared in Discover Magazine, Health, and Live Science, among other publications. She holds a Master’s of Science in Psychology with a concentration in behavioral neuroscience and a Bachelor’s of Science in integrative neuroscience from Binghamton University. Jocelyn has reported on several medical and science topics ranging from coronavirus news to the latest findings in women’s health.
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