Research Horizons


PFA Exposure May Delay Girls’ Puberty

Exposure to PFAS may delay the onset of puberty in girls, according to the first longitudinal research that includes the role hormones play in the delay.

The research, published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, was led by Susan Pinney, PhD, of the Department of Environmental and Public Health Sciences in the UC College of Medicine.

She says the delay of puberty in girls can lead to negative long-term health outcomes, including a higher incidence of breast cancer, renal disease and thyroid disease.

“Puberty is a window of susceptibility,” Pinney says. “Environmental exposures during puberty, not just to PFAS, but anything, have more of a potential for a long-term health effect. What these have done is extended the window of susceptibility, and it makes them more vulnerable for a longer period of time.”

The study included data from 823 girls who were 6 to 8 years old when they were enrolled in the study and then followed for years. About half were from the Greater Cincinnati area, the others from the San Francisco Bay area.

The study found an average delay of puberty onset by five or six months among girls with PFAS exposure. However, some experienced even longer delays, which raises concerns about their health risks.

Pinney, who has studied this topic for years in collaboration with the now-retired Frank Biro, MD, of Cincinnati Children’s, says this and other studies about the known dangers of PFAS raises questions.

“Scientists are frustrated with the slowness of movement to change regulatory guidelines,” Pinney says. “Not only do we need to publish our research findings, but also do our best to inform the general population and the health care community.”