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Organic Pollutants Linked to Early Menopause

By Australian Science Media Centre

A new study has found that women who are exposed to high levels of endocrine-disrupting chemicals begin menopause 2–4 years earlier.

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“A number of chemicals that are persistent pollutants in the environment, such as polychlorinated biphenyl’s (PCB’s) and phthalates, can weakly mimic oestrogen or testosterone. As they are easily absorbed and can accumulate in the body, these chemicals may accumulate to levels that have adverse effects on human health.

“This study looks at the occurrence of early menopause in a sample of US women with levels of a variety of persistent organic pollutants that can mimic oestrogens’ effects. The study found that women who had high levels of PCBs, some pesticides or phthalates in their urine (higher than 90% of women in the general community) went through menopause between 6 months to 3 years earlier than women in the general community. The amount menopause was shifted by, and the statistical strength of the association, varied quite a bit even in the same chemical class. When the researchers tried to control for the length of time the women had been exposed to these chemicals, the association disappeared for phthalates and some of the pesticides, but remained for PCBs.

“While the associations are suggestive, correlation studies suffer from the problem that other factors may be involved. However, these results are concerning and should be carefully considered with a view to reducing PCB exposure in people with the highest levels of PCBs. This is already occurring...

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