Over the course of a single day, most people use a wide variety of personal care products. From toothpaste to shampoo to deodorant, we’re constantly slathering ourselves in chemicals we’ve been made to think are perfectly safe. But are they? According to a new study conducted by researchers at the University of California and published in the journal Human Reproduction, girls who have been exposed to these chemicals in-utero are more likely to undergo puberty at a younger age.
The study followed 388 children (179 girls and 159 boys) and their mothers during pregnancy and through the onset of puberty. What researchers found was that daughters of mothers who had higher levels of diethyl phthalate and triclosan in their bodies during pregnancy experienced puberty at younger ages.
“We found evidence that some chemicals widely used in personal care products are associated with earlier puberty in girls,” Dr. Kim Harley, associate professor in public health at the University of California and the study’s lead author, told The Independent. “Specifically, we found that mothers who had higher levels of two chemicals in their bodies during pregnancy — diethyl phthalate, which is used in fragrance, and triclosan, which is an antibacterial agent in certain soaps and toothpaste — had daughters who entered puberty earlier.”
The same trend was not observed in boys.
Harley noted that the task at hand now is to understand why.
“We know that some of the things we put on our bodies are getting into our bodies, either because they pass through the skin or we breathe them in or we inadvertently ingest them,” Harley said in the statement. “We need to know how these chemicals are affecting our health.”
That said, it is important to note that correlation does not imply causation, and while researchers suspect the chemicals in personal care products can interfere with the natural hormones in our bodies, additional research is necessary.
In general, though, we need to be more aware of the chemicals we’re putting on our bodies — whether or not we’re pregnant.