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N.C. researchers study possibility of accelerating puberty

From U-Wire
Arizona Daily Wildcat,
November 5, 1999
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RALEIGH, N.C.-A study by researchers at North Carolina State University and the University of Missouri at Columbia has found that prenatal exposure to Bisphenol A may accelerate the onset of puberty in humans.

Bisphenol A is a type of estrogenic endocrine-disrupting chemical. EEDCs interfere with mammalian development by mimicking the action of the sex hormone estradiol.

The study shows that mice given Bisphenol A, in amounts correlating with human exposure, alters postnatal growth and brings on early puberty in the female offspring.

Scientists have known that Bisphenol A is a type of EEDC. But the joint study NCSU conducted with UM-C is the first to document that exposure to low, but repeated doses of the chemical, delivered via a mother's food intake, can dramatically affect the growth and development of female fetuses later in life.

"The study has presented that the effects of Bisphenol A have been more developmental irregularities rather than overt pathology. The early onset of puberty is one example," said John Vandenbergh, professor of zoology at NCSU. So, where is Bisphenol A found?

All sources of Bisphenol A are not known, but scientists do know that it can be found in many types of soft plastics, pesticides and tin can linings. It is also found in dental products used to coat children's teeth, and in collapsible plastic baby bottles.

Small increases in the level of endrogenous estradiol in pregnant woman may substantially increase the sensitivity of fetuses to EEDCs. Therefore, some fetuses may be at high risk for a wide array of abnormalities and diseases.

Andrew Hotchkiss, a co-author of the study and doctoral student in zoology said, "Bisphenol A leaches out of soft plastics at a very slow rate, but the rate increases with repeated use or induced heat."

"Plastics are fine materials for many uses," Vandenbergh said. "Our research simply suggests we need to know more before we decide if they're fine for all uses."

Further studies are planned for the future to attain knowledge of all effects on male and female mice.

"We hope to expand on these findings by determining if there are behavioral consequences," Vandenbergh said.

"In the bigger picture the study's results echo human health trends over the past 50 years," Vandenbergh said. "The onset of puberty in humans is coming at a younger and younger age. Over the last half century, it has dropped about two years. It is possible that the earlier onset of puberty in humans in industrial nations correlates with exposure to environmental estrogens."

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