Doing the safety assessment of histrelin acetate and leuprolide acetate that Planned Parenthood won’t do.
Last week, Planned Parenthood was widely criticized for a cartoon ad that touched upon the use of puberty-blocking chemicals, which the organization claims ‘work like a stop sign.’
Planned Parenthood claims in the video that puberty blockers – which block hormones testosterone and estrogen in the body – are safe and can allow teenagers more time to ‘figure out what’s right’ for them.
The video encourages kids to talk with a trusted adult, a nurse or a doctor.
‘Puberty blockers are safe and can give you more time to figure out what feels right for you, your body, and your gender identity,’ the organization claims. ‘You don’t have to have all of the answers right now.’
‘Your gender identity is real. You should be the one to decide what changes you want to make to your body,’ the ad continues.
Puberty blocker ad put out by Planned Parenthood, which tells children that they can get puberty blockers to “put their puberty on hold” pic.twitter.com/yjHXpevEMk
— 👁 Inside The Classroom (@EITC_Official) October 3, 2022
The ad made it seem like puberty blockers were as harmless as Tylenol. I thought it might be worthwhile to look at the safety of these compounds since Planned Parenthood does not seem inclined to provide all the information.
Using my background in chemical safety assessment, I dived deep into the known health effects of the following compounds that Planned Parenthood explicitly cited:
- A flexible rod called histrelin acetate that goes under the skin of the arm and lasts for 1 year.
- A shot called leuprolide acetate, which works for 1, 3, or 4 months at a time.
To begin with, many “experts” say that these drugs are safe and the effects are irreversible. These statements come from the British Columbia Provincial Health Services Authority:
There are no known irreversible effects of puberty blockers.
If you decide to stop taking them, your body will go through puberty just the way it would have if you had not taken puberty blockers at all.
Puberty blockers are considered to be very safe overall.
Puberty blockers work by going after the gonadotropin-releasing hormones released as the hypothalamus in the brain begins producing gonadotropin-releasing hormones. As these hormones activate the pituitary gland, the gland then releases hormones known as gonadotropins.
The gonadotropins cause the maturation of the gonads. These organs then produce and release the sex hormones testosterone and estrogen from the testes and ovaries. Histrelin acetate and leuprolide acetate prevent the pituitary gland from creating gonadotropins.
I find it difficult to believe that the shrinking of organs, and effects like bone loss, are either “safe” or “irreversible.” Tweaking hormonal biochemistry in someone’s body on that scale is likely to affect blood pressure, sleep patterns, weight, and many other impacts. Just ask anyone who has experienced significant changes in their hormone levels via menopause!
Indeed, the BBC Woman’s Hour reported an important change to the UK National Health Services website section on gender dysphoria: the NHS no longer says that puberty blockers are “reversible.”
“Little is known about the long-term side effects of hormone or puberty blockers in children with gender dysphoria.
Although the Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS) advises this is a physically reversible treatment if stopped, it is not known what the psychological effects may be.
It’s also not known whether hormone blockers affect the development of the teenage brain or children’s bones. Side effects may also include hot flushes, fatigue and mood alterations.”
Let’s take a look at the chemicals themselves. The Safety Data Sheet for histrelin acetate indicates that it is a skin and respiratory sensitizer and is harmful if swallowed.
According to the European Chemicals Agency, leuprolide acetate is “harmful if inhaled, may cause an allergic skin reaction, and may cause allergy or asthma symptoms or breathing difficulties if inhaled.”
If these were in the chemical inventory of my client, I would classify them as “Particularly Hazardous Substances.” The safety program would have to ensure employees using these chemicals have additional training and enhanced hygiene measures.
Now, safety data sheets for workers handling these compounds. What does the pharmaceutical literature say about the side effects of these two puberty blockers when used as a treatment?
Histrelin acetate‘s more common side effects include “sudden sweating,” more commonly referred to as hot flashes. Other effects are more disturbing:
- Decreased interest in sexual intercourse
- difficulty having a bowel movement
- inability to have or keep an erection
- loss in sexual ability, desire, drive, or performance
Leuprolide acetate also has its own array of side effects:
- stomach pain,
- joint/muscle aches or pain,
- swelling of the ankles/feet,
- increased urination at night,
I strongly suspect a teen would prefer not to bring on a case of acne. And these are just some of the many potential health effects of both blockers.
One last note in today’s hot science take. I am versed in this issue because I have to identify endocrine-disrupting compounds for regulatory purposes. There is a big push to remove them from the environment. Therefore, their use in industry is being increasingly restricted.
Why are groups like Planned Parenthood making them seem as harmful as children’s aspirin?DONATE
Donations tax deductible
to the full extent allowed by law.