The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism reports that common chemicals used in food containers, clothing, furniture, carpets and paint can bring about early menopause. The chemicals, known as perfluorocarbons (PFCs), were found at higher levels in women over 42 who had undergone menopause. The researchers do not yet understand the mechanism at work but said that women with high levels of PFCs also had significantly lower concentrations of estrogen.
PFCs are ubiquitous and have disseminated in water, air, soil, plant life, animals and humans, even in remote parts of the world. A sample of U.S. adults found measurable concentrations of PFCs in 98 percent of the participants tested.
"The current study is the largest ever to be done on the endocrine-disrupting effects of perfluorocarbons in women," said study author Sarah Knox, of the West Virginia University School of Medicine. "Our data shows that after controlling for age, women of perimenopausal and menopausal age in this large population are more likely to have experienced menopause if they have higher serum concentrations of PFCs than their counterparts with lower levels."
"There is no doubt that there is an association between exposure to PFCs and onset of menopause, but the causality is unclear," said Knox. "Part of the explanation could be that women in these age groups have higher PFC levels because they are no longer losing PFCs with menstrual blood anymore, but, it is still clinically disturbing because it would imply that increased PFC exposure is the natural result of menopause."
PFCs are linked to multiple health problems including increased cardiovascular risk and impairment of the immune system. "Our findings suggest that PFCs are associated with endocrine disruption in women and that further research on mechanisms is warranted," concluded Knox.
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Source: The Endocrine Society