Thursday, March 27, 2008

The New Rachel Carson

The Falling Age of Puberty in U.S. GirlsTonight I went to a lecture by Dr. Sanda Steingraber, ecologist, author, and cancer survivor. She is the author of "The Falling Age of Puberty in U.S. Girls: What We Know and What We Need to Know" This report is downloadable here courtesy of the Breast Cancer Fund. I found Steingraber's presentation to be infinitely interesting, dare I say entertaining, and most of all disconcerting.
In recent years, there have been cases highlighted in the media of children entering puberty as young as age 5. The onset of puberty—for both black and white girls—shows signs of a continuing decline as measured by the appearance of breasts (thelarche)... For example, in 1970, the average age of thelarche was 11.5 years. Thirty years later, it had fallen to just under 10 years for U.S. white girls and just under 9 years for black girls...Studies have shown that the earlier girls enter puberty, the more likely they are to experience negative physical and mental health consequences.

pollutionIf you think about it, girls maturing at an earlier age has to lead to more victimization. She has less time to process the changes and messages that circulate around young girls, and more time to make poor decisions. In addition, girls no longer have the time to learn everything that is necessary for full development before the brain changes, hence less time to learn sports, a language, or complex processes. Earlier puberty is problematic and we as a society need to start implementing preventative measures.

I was intrigued by Steingraber's short time with us at Shippensburg University. Not only is she a scientist, but also a poet. Some refer to Steingraber as "the new Rachel Carson." I think the honor is deserved.

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