These Chemicals Are Making Boys Hit Puberty Early in China

These Chemicals Are Making Boys Hit Puberty Early in China

Eat your vegetables and snack on some fruit- that’s the advice you’ve been getting your whole life, but a new study might change your mind.

Researchers from China have found that new “safer” pesticides might not be safe at all. Not to strike fear in your heart, but the chemicals seem to have the ability to make boys mature at a faster rate than normal. In essence, they make boys hit puberty earlier.

(For the record, the pesticides might actually be having the same effect on girls as well, but the study examined boys).

Some Background


The class of pesticides in question is called pyrethroids. They’re great at fending off insects that nibble into crops and account for about 30% of all pesticide use worldwide.

Why did we start using them? Farmers adopted them widely as a consumer insecticide in the 1990s when other, older chemicals thought to be dangerous to human health and the environment, were being phased out.

Pyrethroid insecticides are synthesized in labs and based on a natural pesticide that comes from crushed flower heads. Sounds strange but it’s true. The trouble with the naturally based yet effective pesticide, is that it’s pretty expensive to produce. And so scientists formulated pyrethroids for widespread use, which are stronger, cheaper to use and take more time to break down in the environment.

The Evidence


How do scientists know that pyrethroids speed up maturation in boys? Associate professor Jing Liu, Ph.D. from Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, China lead the discovery. Liu’s team found that in a study of 463 Chinese boys ages 9 to 16 years, those who had evidence in their urine of being exposed to the pesticides, also had an increased level of hormones in their bodies that trigger the production of testosterone.

Because of this, the boys had about a 40% higher chance of being at “an advanced stage of genital development”. Add to this the fact that mice exposed to pyrethroids hit puberty earlier as well, and you have your evidence.

What You Can Do


Large parts of Asia have mosquitoes living rampant throughout major cities as well as small towns, due to humid climates. Because of this, many homes use pyrethroids indoors- sometimes in sleeping areas- to kill off the biting bugs and protect the people in the home from contracting mosquito-born diseases.

If you do this as well, finding other ways of fending them off can help. For a sample label of a product containing the pesticide, click here.

You can also limit your contact by using a safe bug spray on yourself and your kids, instead.

What about food? Wash your vegetables and fruits well, and buy organic when you can.

If you’re living on a farm, consider switching to a safer pesticide which may be easier said than done, but it could be worth it. Or take up fishing… if there’s anything left in the ocean.

(photo credits:

Photo credit: Fotokostic/Shutterstock

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