Grant TypeDissertation Fieldwork Grant
Institutional AffiliationIndiana U., Bloomington
Grant numberGr. 10101
Approve DateApril 8, 2021
Project TitleBurris, Mecca (Indiana U., Bloomington) "A comparative analysis of the influence of pesticide exposure on age at menarche in Costa Rica"
MECCA BURRIS, then a graduate student at Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana, received a grant in April 2021 to aid research on “A Comparative Analysis of the Influence of Pesticide Exposure on Age at Menarche in Costa Rica,” supervised by Dr. Andrea Wiley. This dissertation explores the relationship between living near large-scale industrial agriculture and the timing of puberty among girls in Sarapiqui, Costa Rica. The sociocultural effects of industrial agriculture have been intensely studied, but little attention has been paid to the impacts on human growth and development, especially among females. Data were collected from 192 interviews among girls ages eight to 18. Proxy variables for pesticide exposure included distance to and type of agriculture, the number of farm-working household members, and consumption of foods produced with pesticides. Living closer to agriculture, especially yuca farms, is associated with breast development and pubic hair growth at later ages. Thus, the pesticides in this context may be blocking or downregulating sex steroids associated with female maturation, and/or initiating an immune response, which is energetically costly. Actual pesticide exposure measures from silicone wristbands are forthcoming and will be used to further test these findings. Many factors that contribute to puberty in Western-developed settings were not significant in this sample (e.g., nutrition, stress, socioeconomic status). Perhaps in communities with less social stratification, peer and cultural cohesion are more influential, and further qualitative research is needed.