Little girls are worrying about bras when they should still be playing with Play Dough.
But in this day and age, it seems like that's exactly what they have to do. A new study reported in the journal Pediatrics found that very little girls are developing breasts earlier than ever before, increasing their risk of breast cancer and other health problems and subjecting them to taunts from boys that undermine their self esteem. The study's authors say exposure to toxic chemicals like Bisphenol A (BPA), some preservatives, and additives found in plastic may be among the reasons why.
Red flags have been flying for several years about the threats toxic chemicals pose to girls' reproductive organs. “Young girls are exposed to dozens of potentially toxic chemicals on a daily basis,” Ted Schettler, M.D., M.P.H., Science Director for the Science and Environmental Health Network, told the New York Times. “Some of these can mimic the natural hormone, estrogen. Although individually their estrogenic activity may be relatively weak, their effects are additive. In the aggregate they could be having significant health effects, including contributing to the early onset of breast development. We need a new law to evaluate chemicals and protect our children from harmful exposures.”
Efforts are underway to pass the Safe Chemicals Act, legislation that would require safety testing for chemicals used in personal care products, cleansers, kids' toys, and other products that could damage a developing child. We should all encourage our Senators and Representatives to support it. But it could take years to pass a new law, and years more before it goes into effect.
What can you do in the meantime?
* Eat more organic food, and feed organic food to your kids, too. Yep, most of the time it costs more. But would you rather spend money on healthier milk and organic vegetables, or training bras? And honestly, if you're still buying bottled water, now's the time to stop and shift your spending to food that's actually worth the price. Take a look at these "price buster" tips for more ways good food can cost you less.
* Eat less meat. Unless you're buying organic meat, the beef, pork and poultry you're eating and feeding your family aare probably laden with growth homones. A diet made up mostly of fruits, vegetables and whole grains is a lot healthier, overall. Just in case you're still on the fence about this one, here are a few more advantages to limiting or eliminating meat in your diet.
* Look for BPA-free everything. Nowadays, no one should be buying anything made from plastic unless it clearly says "BPA-free" on the label. Baby bottles? Rubber duckies? Water bottles? Make-up containers? If it's plastic and doesn't say BPA-free don't buy it.
* Use fewer personal care products, both for yourself and for your kids. Babies are born with perfect skin - why do we insist on slathering them with lotion? As for ourselves, most women put more than ten different products on their skin every day. While no one of these products poses an imminent threat, over time, the multiple exposures we suffer add up. Limit what you put on yourself and your kids, and choose products that contain mostly natural plant ingredients rather than synthetic chemicals.
* Exercise, and exercise your kids. The Pediatrics study showed that early breast development was more likely in girls that were overweight. Keep your kids active. Turn off the tv and get moving!