Cleanly this means trouble!

Hormone-rich shampoos make some girls enter puberty early

Published: Wednesday 15 May 2002

unbeknown to many parents, a few hair products, especially some frequently used by black people, contain small amounts of hormones that could cause premature sexual development in girls, some experts claim. However, the evidence about the same is largely circumstantial and the case is still to be scientifically proven.

Throughout the West, girls are tending to reach puberty earlier. This has been blamed on everything from improved diet to environmental contaminants. But African-American girls enter puberty even earlier than their white counterparts. About half of them develop breasts or pubic hair by age eight as compared to just 15 per cent of the white girls, indicates a study. In sharp contrast to this, in Africa girls enter puberty much later regardless of their socio-economic status, experts say.

Such big discrepancies may be explained, at least in part, by the more frequent use of hormone containing hair products among African-American s, says Chandra Tiwary, former chief of paediatric endocrinology at Brooke Army Medical Centre in Texas, usa. "I believe that the frequency of sexual precocity can be reduced simply if children do not use harmful hair products," he says.

In the past, Tiwary had conducted a study of four girls, including a 14-month-old who developed breasts or pubic hair months after beginning to use such products. The symptoms started to disappear when these girls stopped using the products.

Another study by Tiwary showed that some of the products used by his patients contained up to four milligrammes of oestradiol hormone per 100 grammes of the product. Others contained up to two grammes of oestriol hormone per 100 grammes of the product. B&B Super Gro, a shampoo sold in the us that is labelled as being rich in hormones, was found to contain 1.6 grammes of oestriol per 100 grammes of the shampoo.

Such harmful products are very popular because they are marketed as treatments to deep-condition dry and brittle hair. Moreover, most of them are not labelled for their harmful ingredients. Therefore, most consumers remain ignorant about their adverse affects.

A study published earlier by Su-Ting Li of Seattle-based Child Health Institute suggests that nearly half the African-American parents use such products, and that most also use them on their children. For other ethnic groups the figure is under 10 per cent.

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