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Girls may face risks from phthalates

Physically precocious young girls often must endure stares and nasty catcalls. The problem of early development is particularly prevalent in Puerto Rico, and researchers there have found a possible culprit.

For more than 2 decades, their island has hosted an inexplicable epidemic of premature breast development, or thelarche. The incidence there—at least 7 or 8 per 1,000 girls—is the highest known. Most of the affected girls begin developing breasts between the ages of 6 and 24 months, notes Carlos J. Bourdony, a pediatric endocrinologist at San Juan City Hospital.

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