Today, children seem to reach puberty earlier than ever before. This trend has alarmed not only parents but health experts as well.  Precocious puberty affects at least one in 5,000 children in the U.S. and the rate is continuously increasing.It refers to the appearance of secondary sex characteristics such as breast or pubic hair growth before the age of 8. Statistics show that children are maturing at younger ages in the last 3 decades.This refers especially to girls, as they are 10 times more prone to precocious puberty than boys.Once Occurring at Age 15, Now at 7, 8, and 9-Years OldMenstruation used to occur at the age of 15 in the 19th century. Nowadays, the average age of girls who get their first period is 12. There’s rapid development and change before and during puberty, so even months matter when speaking about the first period. Girls will notice the growth of pubic hair, breast “budding”, and other signs of development before menstruation.These changes are now becoming more common among girls at the age of 7, 8, and 9, which is pretty unsettling. Instead of giving these children a diagnosis that something’s wrong, many health care providers have actually changed the notion of what’s being considered normal. However, do you really think is normal for girls to mature so young?Concerning precocious puberty, there are more questions than answers. Nevertheless, the one thing certain is that girls are maturing earlier than one, two, or three decades ago.The journal Pediatrics has published a study which shows the following statistics: 23% of black girls; 15% of Hispanic girls; 2% of Asian girls, and 7-10% of white girls had started developing breasts by the age of 7. Researchers noted that there’s a significant difference in the number of 7- and 8-year old girls who had breast development 1 to 3 decades earlier than now.Early puberty can cause various behavioral and emotional problems, and it’s associated with depression, lower self-esteem, alcohol use, eating disorders, earlier loss of virginity, increased risk of sexually transmitted diseases, and more sexual partners. Studies note that these girls have a higher risk of heart disease, diabetes, and even cancer later in life.1. Environmental Chemicals as a Major FactorAlthough there are different scientific explanations for the increasing number of early puberty, the influence of environmental chemicals deserves special attention. Especially, estrogen-mimicking, “gender-bending” chemicals found in many products. They leach out easily, contaminating everything around them, including foods and liquids.New York Times explains the results of several animal studies which have proven that some environmental chemicals are able to cause earlier maturing of the body. Endocrine disrupters such as estrogen mimics or “xeno-estrogens” are of particular concern. They can change the puberty timing behaving like steroid hormones.Scientists can’t examine the direct effects of these chemicals on children for obvious reasons. Therefore, they turn to “natural experiments.” For example, in 1973, a cattle in Michigan accidentally ate grain contaminated with flame retardant PBB – an estrogen-mimicking chemical. The daughters of the pregnant women who ate the contaminated meat and drank the contaminated milk got their menstruation much earlier than their peers.Although this is just one accidental experiment, the truth is we are surrounded by hormone-disrupting chemicals every day, which makes us part of a somewhat “secret experiment”. The industrial petrochemical which functions as a synthetic estrogen, Bisphenol A, can be found in our plastic and tin can linings, on cash-register receipts, and in dental sealants. EWG has commissioned laboratory tests that detected the presence of Bisphenol A, along with 230 other chemicals, in the umbilical cord blood of 90% of the tested newborn infants. New York Times explains its concern about the effect of the various estrogen-mimics to which we are exposed simultaneously, and on a regular basis.It’s unclear what these chemicals, which mimic the natural hormones in our body, do in a developing fetus or an infant exposed to them. They can cause significant changes in an adult’s body, so we can only imagine what they cause during the most vulnerable period of human development – as a fetus and an infant.Unfortunately, Bisphenol A is just one example. Another one is the group of industrial chemicals that make plastics more resilient and flexible, such as polyvinyl chloride (PVC). They are one of the most prevalent endocrine disrupters, included in all kinds of products like processed food packaging, detergents, shower curtains, beauty products like hair spray, nail polish, deodorants, shampoo, and fragrances.The breakdown product of the pesticide DDT, known as DDE, and PCBs are other environmental chemicals that are linked to early sexual development in girls. These chemicals are known to interfere with or mimic sex hormones.Other chemicals which fall in this dangerous category are Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), included in non-stick cookware, and fluoride, found in most water supplies in America. Animal researchers discovered that exposure to fluoride causes reduced levels of circulating melatonin, which in turn leads to earlier puberty in the tested female animals.These Substances Also Raise the Risk of Heart Disease and CancerChemicals that are able to affect the rate of reproductive development could also affect other hormone-sensitive growth processes.MSD Manuals discovered that 99% of breast cancer tissues samples contained paraben esters. These chemicals mimic estrogen – the hormone involved in puberty, as well as in breast cancer development. Parabens are included in various household products, like shaving gel, deodorants and antidepressants, makeup and cosmetics, toothpaste, shampoos and conditioners, lotions and sunscreens, pharmaceutical drugs, and food additives.Another research proved that certain metals are actually estrogen-mimicking, cancer-causing compounds, acting as “metalloestrogens”. They raise the risk of early puberty and breast cancer, by adding to the estrogenic burden of our body. These metals include copper, aluminum, lead, antimony, arsenate, nickel, mercury, cadmium, barium, selenite, chromium, cobalt, tin, and vanadate. They can be found in various consumer products, and even in vaccines. It was shown that they mimic the action of physiological estrogens by attaching to cellular estrogen receptors.A British health survey explains that high levels of chemical Bisphenol A (BPA) in urine means higher chances of heart disease. But, one of the biggest concerns is the BPA influence on fetal development, which can cause chromosomal errors, leading to genetic damage and spontaneous miscarriages. Besides fetuses, these chemicals also affect children and adults. They cause early puberty, decreased sperm quality, disrupted reproductive cycles, stimulation of mammary gland development, ovarian dysfunction, heart disease, cancer, obesity, etc.Both Children and Adults Must Avoid hormone-disrupting SubstancesBesides the obvious early puberty in girls, other signs of exposure to hormone-disrupting substances are more insidious and might appear even when a disease is already developed. The following 12 measures will help you protect your children, and yourself from the dangers of these toxic substances.1. Buy and consume organic and free-range meats whenever possible, in order to lower your exposure to added pesticides, hormones, and fertilizers. Avoid dairy products such as milk which include rBGH or rBST in their content.2. All types of processed, prepackaged foods contain soy, BPA, phthalates, and other chemicals. Therefore, it’s always best to follow a diet based on raw, fresh foods.3. Avoid storing your food and drinks in plastic, and use glass containers instead. Moreover, avoid using canned foods and plastic wrap.4. Use BPA-free sippy cups and glass baby bottles for your infant.5. Before you buy another baby’s toy, such as teething rings, pacifiers, or other items your baby will likely suck on, make sure it’s BPA-free.6. Avoid phthalates by using only natural cleaning products in your home.7. Use natural brands of toothpaste, shampoo, cosmetics, antiperspirants, and other toiletries. You can find many personal care products free of parabens, phthalates, and other chemicals in the safety guide of the Environmental Working Group.8. Avoid using fabric softeners, dryer sheets, artificial air fresheners, and other synthetic fragrances as they might disrupt your hormone balance.9. Use glass or ceramic cookware instead of non-stick pans and pots.10. Choose green,” toxin-free alternatives instead of vinyl floor coverings and regular paint when redoing your home.11. Use shower curtains made of fabric instead of vinyl.12. Pregnant women should avoid unfermented soy.2. Vitamin D Also Associated with Early PubertyAccording to statistics, girls living closer to the equator enter puberty earlier than those in the Northern regions.  As this suggests a potential link to sun exposure, researchers from the University of Michigan School of Public Health decided to see if vitamin D was somehow related.They measured the levels of this vitamin I 242 girls at the age between 5 and 12 and discovered that those with a  lack of vitamin D had more chances of starting their period during the research, than those with higher vitamin D levels.57% of the girls who were deficient in this vitamin started menstruation during the research, in comparison with the 23% with adequate levels of vitamin D. As researchers explain,  ≥ 30 ng/mL is the adequate level of vitamin D, although this is still not sufficient. The levels of this vitamin should be at least 50 ng/mL for optimal health, suggesting that the girls with a lack of vitamin D and early puberty were much more than the research report.Girls who enter puberty earlier have longer exposure to raised levels of estrogen – female hormone. This increases the risk for certain types of cancers, like breast cancer. So far, this was the closest investigated link between cancer and early puberty. In addition, you must understand that lack of vitamin D is also a major risk factor for heart disease, cancer, and many other diseases.3. Obesity Linked to Early PubertyAnother potential factor in early puberty is obesity, as estrogen is produced and stored in fat tissues.New York Times reports the statement of the professor of clinical pediatrics at the Benioff Children’s Hospital in San Francisco, California, Robert Lustig. He says that fatter girls have higher hormone leptin levels, which can result in early puberty.This leads to higher levels of estrogen, and greater insulin resistance. All this makes these girls have more fat tissues, leptin, and estrogen. The cycle continues to feed on itself until its bodies mature physically.4. Stress as Another FactorIt was also discovered that girls whose parents divorced at the age of 3 and 8, had more risk of precocious puberty. This indicates that stress during childhood increases the likelihood of early puberty. As New York Times explains, hard life means a necessity for earlier maturity.Although this is not backed up by scientific evidence. Besides avoiding environmental chemicals, stress, and obesity, and optimizing your levels of vitamin D, one of the best-known methods to prevent precocious puberty is regular exercise.Via Real Farmacy | Kids Health