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Early menopause link to endocrine disrupting chemicals

by Margery Gass | Nov 30, 2012
New research links endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) to an earlier menopause. EDCs are chemicals that can interfere with human hormones in the body. They include pesticides, plasticizers, and even natural chemicals found in plants.

The research found that women exposed to two types of EDCs had an earlier menopause. Menopause was 2.5 years earlier with exposure to polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and 2.3 years earlier with exposure to phthalates. PCBs were banned in 1979 but can still be found in older products. Phthalates are found in many products including cosmetics.

Exactly how EDCs change the age of menopause is not known so further research is needed. These findings were weak but suggested a trend that deserves further study.

EDC exposure can have other effects. EDC exposed women had elevated breast cancer risk in another study. Increased exposure to certain chemicals, such as phthalates and bisphenol A (BPA), led to thyroid irregularities in women in one study. These chemicals are found in common containers like plastic bottles. Women exposed to high levels of flame retardants have been found to have reduced fertility. Flame retardants are used in many products — foam cushions in couches, carpet padding, clothing, electronics, etc. They can accumulate in fatty tissues, salmon, butter, cheese, ground beef, household dust, and waste water treatment plant runoff.

How can you reduce risk of exposure?

  • Educate yourself
  • Eat organic food
  • Avoid pesticide use
  • Know where the fish you eat comes from and check with your state and local government about contamination in those waters
  • Avoid heating food in plastic containers or storing fatty food in plastic containers or wrapping
  • Support research and education about EDCs


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Mood swings, short-term memory loss, and difficulty thinking straight are common complaints from midlife women. However, while many of these symptoms are attributed to menopause, there are other contributing factors to consider as well.

Hormones: During reproductive years, most women become accustomed to their own hormonal rhythm. When this rhythm is disrupted during perimenopause, mood changes may result.

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President 
The North American Menopause Society Foundation

 
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