It seems that the ‘natural’ coming-of-age process of puberty isn’t so natural anymore. A new report (one of several studies that have cropped up over the past several years) shows that girls are entering puberty earlier than ever before, and that this may be due – in part – to chemicals which mimic the natural effects of estrogen.

These chemicals, which affect the endocrine system, are thought to be found in shampoos, lotions, paints, oils, food cans, toiletry products, and detergents, making an otherwise safe meal, or daily shower, potentially hazardous to our health.

The evidence that environmental hormones harm humans is unproven and, at best, contradictory. Nevertheless, some evidence that these hormones harm wildlife in general is noted and global. Consider the following examples: male alligators in a U.S. lake polluted by agricultural chemicals turned up with reproductive organs half their normal sizefemale snails in Japan were found with male genitalia; and the entire male fish population in some European rivers was found with female characteristics. Last year, Frontline’s Poisoned Waters illustrated how countless frogs and other marine life in the Potomac River were found to be hermaphroditic, probably because of chemical dumping in the water (that source also doubles as Washington, D.C.’s water supply).

This research points us to the question: Is it possible that our own hormones, which supposedly regulate our bodies from within, are now at the mercy of man-made chemicals in the environment? The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency maintains that the issue of endocrine disrupting chemicals remains a high priority within the Office of Research and Development. Their research focuses on answering the question: what new tools do we need to manage the risk associated with EDCs? We await answers.