Why puberty now begins at seven?

BBC has this knack for making a statement for a headline that doesn’t even match the content of the article they writing about.  This is another one:

Whether it is sprouting hair, budding breasts or a breaking voice, the signs that herald puberty can be distressing and difficult to cope with.

In the western world there is much evidence children are reaching puberty at younger and younger ages – some girls at the age of seven.

The reasons for this trend are unknown – and some dispute it is occurring at all.

They then list a few “theories” as to why this is happening.  But, IMO, they omit the most commonly held theory.  I have heard MANY people talk about how hormones in meat and cattle, eaten by children, cause early and advanced puberty.  This one’s not even mentioned in the BBC article.

For what it’s worth, this is the best research I could fine on the hormone angle:

This fact sheet addresses some of the consumer concerns that have been brought to BCERF regarding health effects of hormones used by the meat and dairy industries. Evidence available so far, though not conclusive, does not link hormone residues in meat or milk with any human health effect.

Early puberty in girls has been found to be associated with a higher risk for breast cancer. Height, weight, diet, exercise, and family history have all been found to influence age of puberty (see BCERF Fact Sheet #08, Childhood Life Events and the Risk of Breast Cancer). Steroid hormones in food were suspected to cause early puberty in girls in some reports. However, exposure to higher than natural levels of steroid hormones through hormone-treated meat or poultry has never been documented. Large epidemiological studies have not been done to see whether or not early puberty in developing girls is associated with having eaten growth hormone-treated foods.

A concern about an increase in cases of girls reaching puberty or menarche early (at age eight or younger) in Puerto Rico, led to an investigation in the early 1980s by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Samples of meat and chicken from Puerto Rico were tested for steroid hormone residues. One laboratory found a chicken sample from a local market to have higher than normal level of estrogen. Also, residues of zeranol were reported in the blood of some of the girls who had reached puberty early. However, these results could not be verified by other laboratories. Following CDC’s investigation, USDA tested 150 to 200 beef, poultry and milk samples from Puerto Rico in 1985, and found no residues of DES, zeranol or estrogen in these samples.

In another study in Italy, steroid hormone residues in beef and poultry in school meals were suspected as the cause of breast enlargement in very young girls and boys. However, the suspect beef and poultry samples were not available to test for the presence of hormones. Without proof that exposure to higher levels of steroid hormones occurred through food, it is not possible to conclude whether or not eating hormone-treated meat or poultry caused the breast enlargement in these cases.

What disturbs me the most about this “research” is the unsubstantiated statement near the end:

Some say girls who reach puberty earlier are more likely to drop out of school and have lower incomes.

Who the hell are “some“?  How do verify or elaborate what “some” did?  I want to know who exactly did research to come to the conclusion that girls who reach puberty earlier are more likely to drop out of school and have lower incomes.  Without that substantiation, I’m just going to assume BBC made that up as well.

This is an important topic that does have social ramifications.  It needs to be taken seriously.  BBC needs to do a real effort in reporting it, not this hack-job full of references to “some” and totally unsupported statements.