The Oct. 20-21 edition of our local paper included an Associated Press story with the headline, “Earlier puberty seen in boys; chemicals, obesity eyed.” I find these news reports alarming, whether the problem is with girls, boys, transgender, or intersex children. But the reporter, Lindsey Tanner, chose the cutesy approach for a lead: “When it comes to the birds and the bees, some parents may want to have that talk with their boys a little sooner than they expected.”
The article reported that it was unclear whether early puberty created health risks for boys and men, and quoted Dr. William Adelman, a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ committee on adolescence: “If it’s true that boys are starting puberty younger, it’s not clear that means anything negative or has any implications for long term.”
Pardon the pun, but this response seems a bit short-sighted. First, although it’s unclear what the causes are, scientists’ theories about early puberty in boys and girls range from higher levels of obesity and inactivity, to chemicals in food and water. All of these are health hazards, regardless of whether or not they’re affecting hormone production in young humans.
I’ll preface my second point by saying I’m not a scientist (to say the least). However, I’ve heard enough talks, formal and informal, by biologists who study the effects of chemicals on the human body to believe that we all should be alarmed by studies such as the ones cited in the AP article. I’ve included a couple of links to work by scientists who know far more about endocrine disruption than I ever will.
Third, as a feminist and a thinking human being, it seems to me that an obvious health risk resulting from early puberty is more unplanned pregnancies in younger and younger kids. If 9- or 10-year-olds impregnating each other and giving birth isn’t a health problem, I don’t know what is. I realize kids grow up faster these days, but I’m around enough 9-year-olds to know that they are still young children. They should not be having sex, they’re incapable of a level of decision making that even an average young adolescent has, and their being capable of impregnating, getting pregnant, and giving birth is a frightening prospect. In an ideal world, all children would have parental guidance and care, and no one would have to worry about the problem of pre-teen pregnancy. But what we have at the moment is far from ideal.
In my ideal world, the Associated Press and other media outlets would pay their reporters to investigate why puberty is occurring earlier and earlier. But we live in a corporatocracy in which chemical manufacturers want to continue poisoning us – and the rest of the species and the planet itself – and reaping gargantuan profits.
For more information:
The Endocrine Disruption Exchange: http://www.endocrinedisruption.com/home.php
Sandra Steingraber, ecologist and author: http://steingraber.com/