Women naturally undergo menopause but a study has shown that those exposed to high levels of household chemicals may experience changes in their bodies making them more predisposed to experiencing a drop in reproductive ability earlier than usual.
Published in the journal PLOS ONE, the study was the first to widely explore the relationship between individual chemicals routinely found in households and menopause. Previous researches have been done on the topic but mostly were just about examining the links between endocrine-disrupting chemicals and menopause.
A decline in the function of the ovaries as brought about by early menopause not only adversely affects fertility but can also lead to the development of osteoporosis, heart disease and other conditions. Health problems already associated with chemical use include metabolic syndrome and certain cancers. In younger females, chemical exposure leads to the early onset of puberty.
In the study, researchers from the State University of New York's Wadsworth Center and the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine examined data collected between 1999 and 2008 from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey done by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
There were 1,442 menopausal women in the survey. They were 61 years old on average and have never had surgery to remove their ovaries or underwent treatment to replace estrogen. The survey was developed in such a way that the subjects would be representative of a population made up of nearly 9 million women who are menopausal.
Urine and blood samples were analyzed for 111 chemicals, mostly man-made, including those that have been proven to be reproductive toxins or require over a year to be broken down. According to the results, 15 chemicals were identified for their significant association with early-onset menopause. These included three pesticides, nine polychlorinated biphenyls, a furan and two phthalates.
Some of the common chemical sources that could be putting women at risk of early menopause include: makeup, hairspray, liquid soap, perfumes, lotions, medicines and plastic ware.
"Earlier menopause can alter the quality of a woman's life and has profound implications for fertility, health and our society. Understanding how the environment affects health is complex. This study doesn't prove causation, but the associations raise a red flag and support the need for future research," said Amber Cooper, a senior author for the study.
Other authors include: Natalia Grindler, George Macones, Jenifer Allsworth, Kurunthachalam Kannan and Kimberly Roehl. Their work on the study received funding support from two grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).