Monday, October 2, 2023

'Forever Chemicals' Linked to Girls Growing Up

I've been critical in the past of the recent adoption of PFAs as the newest pollutant of concern, due to lack of evidence for actual impacts at environmentally relevant concentrations.  This study claims corelative evidence that PFAS may be delaying the onset of puberty in girls. Med Press, Research shows PFAS exposure may delay girls' puberty

Research from the University of Cincinnati shows that exposure to PFAS may delay the onset of puberty in girls. The research was published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

This study is the first longitudinal research that included the component of the role hormones play in the delay, according to Susan Pinney, Ph.D., of the Department of Environmental and Public Health Sciences in the UC College of Medicine and corresponding author of the study.

She says the delay of puberty in girls can lead to negative long-term health outcomes, including a higher incidence of breast cancer, renal disease and thyroid disease.

"Puberty is a window of susceptibility," Pinney says. "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 published research describes the findings from studying a total of 823 girls who were 6 to 8 years old when they were enrolled in the study—379 were in the Greater Cincinnati area, the other 444 were in the San Francisco Bay Area. Researchers wanted to start the girls in the study before they hit the beginning of breast development. Then they followed them with exams every six to 12 months to see when they experienced the first signs of breast development and pubic hair.

The results found that 85% of the girls in the two cohorts had measurable levels of PFAS. Pinney says this PFAS research is unique because the hormone component was included and they discovered evidence of decreased hormones. The hormones that were decreased with PFAS exposure were consistent with findings of the delay of the onset of puberty.

"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 says. "We are especially concerned about the girls at the top end of the spectrum where it's delayed more."

The study also found that over 99% of the girls in the two cohorts had measurable levels of PFOA, one of the most important of the PFAS.

My long unused statistical background makes me very suspicious that this may be one of those cases where some other factor that corelates with PFAS concentrations may well be responsible for the effect, for example, diet, or exposure to other chemicals. Meanwhile, in the real world, scientists and medical folk are worried about the opposite, an increasing trend toward earlier onset of puberty in girls, particularly during and after the COVID lock:

Psychology today: Why More Kids Are Starting Puberty Earlier Than Ever BeforeUS News Health: Why Are Girls Starting Puberty Earlier?

So, which is the problem?

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