Editorial Review and Opinion

In the May 2015 issue of Scientific American, there is an article in the Science of Health section entitled “Why Girls Are Starting Puberty Early,” by SciAm editor Dina Fine Maron. The article describes a situation in which American girls are experiencing the changes associated with puberty earlier and earlier in life. This change has occurred over the last generation. The author cites clinical evidence and points out some of the problems associated with the phenomenon. Her principle explanation for condition seems to center around obesity. The rise of obesity in America equals the rise in early onset of puberty in girls. Have you heard about obesity before? It is the scourge of America and is being blamed for this latest of social ills.

She mentions the possibility that social stress may be a cause, as if social stress has never existed before. My mother grew up in the Great Depression and I grew up during the Cold War. I think we both had a little “social stress” ourselves, yet neither of us suffered from premature puberty. She also recommends breast feeding and raising children in homogeneous neighborhoods. The stress argument sounds like armchair psychology, breast feeding is a familiar progressive nostrum, while the last sounds suspiciously like de facto segregation.

In addition, while the article is several thousand words long, only two sentences are devoted to the mention of pesticides and other environmental chemicals that are now present (and in ever increasing quantities, which she also doesn’t mention) in the modern American food chain. And, almost comically, she asserts these are probably only important because obese people would ingest more toxins and thus have more of them in their bodies. No mention at all is made of the ever present growth hormones in meat and vegetable products, as well as the insecticides and herbicide suppressors that are now present in some GMOs widely used in animal feed and cereals; nor the growing variety of and sufferers from food allergies among children as well as certain classes of behavior disorders. All of which seem to parallel the above mentioned changes.

As a society, we should be horrified at the notion that the physiology of our young people, principally girls, but it is also happening to a lesser degree to boys, is being adversely effected by what, at least I must conclude, are human created environmental conditions. The phenomenon of premature puberty only occurs in countries practicing the agricultural methods used here in the United States. And after all, too many coincidences do constitute an actual pattern. That an article addressing a major issue like this should ignore these environmental factors is curious indeed. The cynic in me suspects that the author, an editor at SciAm, knows which side of the bread the butter is on. That the very companies that provide for and buy the products of modern agriculture, Monsanto, Dupont, Dow Chemical, Phizer, Merc, and so on, are also principal sponsors and advertisers in SciAm, and they might take offense at an article suggesting that their products are a possible source of a health problem. This may be a reason behind her downplaying this aspect of the issue.

But leaving aside the arguments that the current industrial model of agriculture practiced in the United States is unsustainable environmentally, I would contend that these methods are also poisoning our children. Viable and existing alternatives exist, but I will leave that discussion for another day.

Leave a Reply