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Chemical Exposure May Lead to Early Menopause in Women

A recent study has shown (again) that women who have the highest levels of endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) from a wide variety of common household and personal-care products enter menopause anywhere from 1.9 to 3.8 years earlier than those who have lower levels of EDC.

"Even menopause a few years earlier than usual could have a significant effect on bone health, on cardiovascular health, on memory and quality of life for women in general," said the senior author. "But I think the bigger question--and one that warrants further research--is what's happening at the other end of the ovarian health spectrum. Is the age at which we get pregnant shifting earlier as well, so there are other events on the spectrum that we need to address?"

In their analysis of women in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), the researchers identified 15 EDCs that they say warrant closer evaluation "because of their persistence (long half-life) and potential detrimental effects on ovarian function." These included nine polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), three pesticides, a furan, and two phthalates were significantly associated with earlier ages of menopause on at least one type of analysis.

"The observed magnitudes of effect of these 15 chemicals...are larger than those previously documented for primary exposure to tobacco smoke," they state. Tobacco smoke has been shown in prior NHANES studies to be associated with 0.8 to 1.4 years of earlier-onset menopause.

In many cases, these chemicals were banned 40 years ago in the US, yet we know that they are very persistent in the environment, and if persistent chemicals were found in people's bodies in 2008 [the last year it was analyzed], they are still being found in people's bodies in 2015.

Certain groups are working to increase awareness of how people can try to reduce exposure to EDCs found in plastics, household items, and personal-care products.

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Source: Persistent Organic Pollutants and Early Menopause in U.S. Women

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