Over the past 20 years, research has shown that girls, and possibly also boys, have been going through puberty earlier and earlier. This is troubling news because scientists have linked the early onset of puberty with greater risk of mental illness, breast and ovarian cancer in girls and testicular cancer in boys.
Early puberty, also known as precocious puberty, is defined as developing breasts and starting periods before the age of eight. The average age for girls is 11. Starting before the age of eight also causes social trouble for young girls, including a heightened tendency towards risky behaviour, explains Harley.
The chemicals in question — phthalates, parabens and phenols — are known as endocrine disrupters, which may mimic hormones and lead children to mature well before their natural time. As the study noted, exposure to these chemicals is widespread, which is why it's crucial parents be made aware of the findings.