Washington, Feb 7 : A new study conducted by researchers at the University of Pisa in Italy has suggested a link between environmental toxins and early onset of puberty in girls.
The paper suggests that certain environmental toxins, such as the mycoestrogen zearalenone (ZEA) produced by the Fusarium fungus species, might disrupt the normal growth and hormonal development of girls.
The researchers found that such toxins have properties similar to the female reproductive hormone estrogen, and are also structurally similar to anabolic growth agents used in animal breeding.
Therefore, the study suggested that certain mycoestrogens might be directly linked to the early onset of sexual development in young girls.
For the study, Dr. Francesco Massart and colleagues studied a group of girls affected by the early onset of puberty, or central precocious puberty (CPP), from the Northwest region of Tuscany.
They conducted the study to explain why this area has a much higher than average incidence of CPP. The authors tested the girls for mycoestrogens to see if environmental toxins were a factor in the girls' premature sexual development.
They found that six of the 17 girls with CPP had elevated levels of ZEA.
"Although this finding might be incidental, ZEA may be related to CPP occurrence in girls exposed to mycoestrogens. However, the presence of ZEA pollution could not explain the epidemic of CPP in the region, suggesting that other environmental factors such as herbicides and pesticides may be involved," Dr. Massart.
The researchers also found that because of its chemical resemblance to some anabolic growth agents used in animal breeding, ZEA might promote accelerated growth in exposed kids.
Although, the authors were unable to find a definitive cause of the high rates of CPP in this region of Tuscany, they identified the need for more study into the possible negative effects of environmental pollutants on kids.
The study is scheduled for publication in the Journal of Paediatrics.