Common Household Chemical May Bring On Earlier Menopause

By: Red Hot Mamas

Published: April 15, 2011

We’re all pretty much used to reading and hearing about all of the different household chemicals that may be causing health concerns in our environment. Now, a new study is placing more focus on how they relate to menopause. The study, published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, was a result of 26,000 West Virginia women whose drinking-water supplies had been contaminated with PFCs from a nearby DuPont plant in 2005 and 2006 and found that women exposed to high levels of perfluorocarbons or PFCs may go through menopause at a younger age than other women.

As part of a lawsuit over water contamination, blood testing was performed in six water districts. On average, area residents’ levels of one type of PFC, called PFOA, were 500% higher than the average American’s. However, their average level of another PFC, called PFOS, was similar to the U.S. norm. Among women older than 42, the testing found those with higher blood levels of PFOS were more likely to have gone through menopause. They also tended to have lower estrogen levels than other women. Whether PFCs were the cause is not known.

PFCs are found in carpets and on clothes, on fast-food wrappers, and on the inner lining of pet food bags. They pollute water, are persistent in the environment, and remain in the human body for years. In fact, a 2004 U.S. government study detected PFCs in 98% of blood samples taken from a large pool of Americans. The not so encouraging news is animal research has shown that PFCs act as endocrine disruptors, meaning they interfere with normal hormone function. They have also been associated with smaller birth weight and size in newborn babies, elevated cholesterol, abnormal thyroid hormone levels, liver inflammation, and weaker immune defense against disease. As a result, companies that manufacture PFCs have agreed to phase out the PFOA variety, by 2015.

Study investigators still can’t say whether PFCs cause early menopause, but they think the findings are a red flag that could warrant further investigation. The main concern with the testing results is that earlier menopause and lower estrogen levels could raise a woman’s risk of conditions like heart disease and osteoporosis. The promising news is that there are steps people can take to curb their exposure to PFCs. Following are a few ways to get a head start on avoiding PFCs:

  • Forgo the optional stain treatment on new carpets and furniture
  • Find products that haven’t been pre-treated, and if the couch you own is treated, get a cover for it
  • Choose clothing that is not labeled stain- or water-repellent. When possible, opt for untreated cotton and wool
  • Avoid non-stick pans and kitchen utensils, opt for stainless steel or cast iron instead
  • Cut back on greasy packaged and fast foods
  • Use real plates instead of paper
  • Microwaveable popcorn bags are often coated with PFCs on the inside so pop popcorn the old-fashioned way on the stovetop
  • Choose personal care products without “PTFE” or “perfluoro” in the ingredients. You can use EWG’s Skin Deep at www.cosmeticsdatabase.com to find safer skincare choices

Reference:

Knox, Sarah, and Timothy Jackson. “Implications of Early Menopause in Women Exposed to Perfluorocarbons.” Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism 16.March (2011): 2010-2401. Web. 15 Apr 2011. Online

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