The BBC is reporting on the study, conducted by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), which found that key chemicals in the oils boost estrogen and inhibit testosterone.
A link between the oils and prepubertal gynecomastia, the medical name for the growth of abnormal breast tissue in boys, has been suspected for years.
The study examined eight key chemicals from the hundreds that make up the oils and found that all eight demonstrated varying degrees of promoting estrogen and/or inhibiting testosterone properties.
Many of these chemicals appear in at least 65 other essential oils, which is of concern to researchers. These oils are typically found in soaps, lotions, shampoos, and hair styling products in addition to being used medicinally and as alternative cleaning products.
"Our society deems essential oils as safe,” says J. Tyler Ramsey, the study’s lead researcher. “However, they possess a diverse amount of chemicals and should be used with caution because some of these chemicals are potential endocrine disruptors."
There have been a growing number of reported cases of male gynecomastia that have coincided with topical exposure to the oils. When exposure to the oils was discontinued, the symptoms subsided.
According to a post on Gold Bee, this is not the first study that found a link between gynecomastia and essential oils. A previous study, conducted by Dr. Kenneth Korach, who also participated in the new study, found that lavender and tea tree oil had properties that either competed with, or hindered, the hormones that control male characteristics – which could affect puberty and growth.
Ramsey warned, "Lavender oil and tea tree oil pose potential environmental health concerns and should be investigated further."
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