Role of environmental factors in the timing of puberty

Pediatrics. 2008 Feb:121 Suppl 3:S167-71. doi: 10.1542/peds.2007-1813C.


Puberty-timing measures have historically been used as indicators of adequate nutrition and growth. More recently, these measures have been examined in relation to exposure to estrogenic or antiandrogenic agents, as well as other environmental factors. The scientific community has debated whether puberty timing is occurring earlier today than in the mid-1900s in the United States and, if so, whether environmental factors play a role; however, no one has asked a multidisciplinary panel to resolve this question. Thus, a multidisciplinary expert panel jointly sponsored by the US Environmental Protection Agency, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, and Serono Symposia International was convened to examine the evidence of a secular trend, identify potential environmental factors of concern, and identify research needs regarding environmental factors and puberty timing at "The Role of Environmental Factors on the Timing and Progression of Puberty" workshop. The majority of the panelists concluded that the girls' data are sufficient to suggest a secular trend toward earlier breast development onset and menarche from 1940 to 1994 but that the boys' data are insufficient to suggest a trend during this same period. The weight-of-the-evidence evaluation of human and animal studies suggest that endocrine-disrupting chemicals, particularly the estrogen mimics and antiandrogens, and body fat are important factors associated in altered puberty timing. A change in the timing of puberty markers was considered adverse from a public health perspective. The panel recommended research areas to further our understanding of the relationships among environmental factors, puberty-timing outcomes, and other reproductive and adult disease at the individual and population levels.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Consensus Development Conference

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Body Weight / physiology
  • Child
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Environmental Exposure / prevention & control
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interdisciplinary Communication*
  • Male
  • Menarche / physiology
  • Puberty / physiology*
  • Puberty, Precocious / etiology
  • United States
  • United States Environmental Protection Agency / trends