Phenols, Parabens, Phthalates and Puberty: a Systematic Review of Synthetic Chemicals Commonly Found in Personal Care Products and Girls’ Pubertal Development


Purpose of review: Exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals through personal care products (PCPs) is widespread and may disrupt hormone-sensitive endpoints, such as timing of puberty. Given the well-documented (and ongoing) decline in age at menarche in many populations, we conducted a systematic review of the epidemiological literature on exposure to chemicals commonly found in PCPs (including certain phthalates, phenols, and parabens) in relation to girls’ pubertal development.

Recent findings: The preponderance of research on this topic has examined phthalate exposures with the strongest evidence indicating that prenatal monoethyl phthalate (MEP) concentrations may be associated with slightly earlier timing of puberty, including age at menarche. Findings examining peri-pubertal phthalate exposures and pubertal outcomes were less consistent as were studies of prenatal and peri-pubertal phenol exposures. Very few studies had examined parabens in relation to girls’ pubertal development. Common study limitations included potential exposure misclassification related to use of spot samples and/or mistimed biomarker assessment with respect to the outcomes. The role of body size as a mediator in these relationships remains unresolved. Overall, evidence of associations between chemical exposures in PCPs and girls’ pubertal development was conflicting. When associations were observed, effect sizes were small. Nevertheless, given the many environmental, social, and behavioral factors in the modern environment that may act synergistically to accelerate timing of puberty, even marginal changes may be cause for concern, with implications for cancer risk, mental health, and cardiometabolic disease in later life.

Authors: Zorimar Rivera-Núñez, Carolyn W Kinkade, Yingting Zhang, Amber Rockson, Elisa V Bandera, Adana A M Llanos, Emily S Barrett
; Full Source: Current environmental health reports 2022 Jul 22. doi: 10.1007/s40572-022-00366-4.