Are Chemicals Causing Earlier Menopause?

Are chemicals found in makeup and plastic causing women to enter menopause early? According to a group of researchers from Washington University in St. Louis, the answer may be yes. The team used data from 31,575 people who took part in a large-scale Center for Disease Control and Prevention survey from 1999 to 2008. They included 1,442 women who had gone through menopause and who had been tested for levels of endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs). Their findings, published in the journal PLoS ONE, showed that there were 15 chemicals present in the environment that were linked to the early onset of menopause.

The study showed that women who had the highest levels of these chemicals had their last menstrual periods between 1.9 and 3.8 years earlier than those with lower levels did.  This means there is a relationship between EDCs and early onset of menopause. The scientists are currently studying what the relationship might be and whether certain combinations of EDCs are more likely than others to lead to early onset of menopause.

We are exposed to many of these EDCs through the environment – residues of these chemicals are in the soil and water and are impossible to avoid completely. We can, however limit our exposure to a subset of the EDCs called phthalates. Phthalates are found in squeezable plastics such as shampoo bottles, plastic food containers, the lining of takeout containers, as well as in hairspray, deodorant, most perfumes and scented products, and they make up the microbeads found in many popular exfoliating scrubs.

It isn’t easy to eliminate all phthalates from our lives, but we can choose wisely and know the risks. Transferring cosmetics such as night cream out of squeezable tubes into a glass jar will prevent any further leaching of phthalates from the container to your cream. Choosing products scented with natural essential oils instead of chemically manufactured scents, or choosing unscented products will also help reduce exposure to these chemicals.

The biggest concern is in the kitchen as reheating phthalate containing plastics can cause the chemicals to leach into food and be absorbed into the bloodstream as the food is digested. Heat causes more of the chemicals to leach than at room temperature, so transferring leftovers to glass dishes before reheating is an easy way to lower the phthalates we are exposed to on a daily basis. 

While EDCs such as phthalates are not the only culprits linked to early menopause, they are the culprit that is most easily reduced by some simple lifestyle changes. Chances are high that if these EDCs can help trigger early menopause they play a role in menopausal symptoms too; so reducing exposure to EDCs can potentially aid in symptom relief.  At the very least, having fewer chemicals in your bloodstream is a step towards a healthier lifestyle, and that’s always worth the effort.

References:

Brenza, Amber. "These Common Chemicals Could Make Menopause Start Almost 4 Years Early." Prevention. http://www.prevention.com/health/health-concerns/chemicals-cause-early-menopause. Accessed September 24, 2015.

"Earlier Age at Menopause Linked to Chemicals in Common Household Products and the Environment." EndocrineWeb. http://www.endocrineweb.com/news/osteoporosis/14686-earlier-age-menopause-linked-chemicals-common-household-products-environment. Accessed September 25, 2015.

Mishra, Nikita. "Oh Snap! Makeup Can Trigger Early Menopause." The Quint. http://www.thequint.com/health-fitness/2015/09/22/oh-snap-makeup-can-trigger-early-menopause Accessed September 24, 2015.

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