Environmental News Archive

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Boys Grow Temporary Breasts After Using Shampoo

2 Feb 2007 (TODAY)

BOSTON - Lavender and tea tree oils found in some shampoos, soaps and
lotions can temporarily leave boys with enlarged breasts in rare cases,
apparently by disrupting their hormonal balance, a preliminary study

While advising parents to consider the possible risk, several hormone
experts emphasised that the problem appears to happen infrequently and
clears up when the oils are no longer used. None of those interviewed
called for a ban on sales.

The study reported on the condition, gynecomastia, in three boys aged
four, seven and 10. The boys were brought to their doctors with
overdeveloped breasts that looked like those of girls in early puberty.
They all returned to normal when they stopped using skin lotions, hair
gel, shampoo or soap with the natural oils.

It is unclear how often this problem might appear in other young children.

The plant oils, sometimes called "essential oils", are added to many
healthcare products, usually for their scent. The oils are sometimes found
in other household products or sold in purer forms. Tea tree oil is
sometimes used in shampoos for head lice. The suspected effect in the
study is blamed on some chemical within the oils that the body processes
like estrogen, the female hormone that promotes breast growth.

The United States-funded study was reported yesterday in the New England
Journal of Medicine. - AP