New Study Links Early Menopause with Environmental Chemicals

Dorian Martin Health Guide
  • Our environment is really important – and it turns out, some elements in our daily surroundings may be aging us. A new study published by the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism is reporting that women with high levels of man-made perfluorocarbons (PFCs) in the body often go into early menopause. Besides the high levels of PFCs, these women had lower levels of estrogen when compared with women with low levels of PFCs. The study was conducted by researchers from the West Virginia University School of Medicine.


    “PFCs are toxins that shouldn’t be in our bodies in the first place, but 98 percent of people tested have measurable levels of PFCs in their blood,” Dr. Sarah Knox, epidemiologist and professor in the Department of Community Medicine and lead author of the study, said in a press release.  “If the PFCs are causing early menopause, then those women are at an increased risk for heart issues. If they aren’t, there are still toxins accumulating in the body that shouldn’t be there. Either way, it’s bad news.”

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    Researchers followed 25,957 women who were age 18-65. These women lived in eight water districts in the Parkersburg area of West Virginia. A significant association between high PFC levels in the blood and an early onset of self-reported menopause and low estrogen levels was identified. Researchers plan to determine an estimated age of menopause and to conduct a population-based study in order to determine the causality.


    So what are PFCs? These chemicals are used in numerous household products such as stain repellants and waterproofing that is found in food containers, clothing, furniture, carpet and paint. Drugs.com notes that widespread use of PFCs has resulted in their presence in water, air, soil, plants, animals and humans. In fact, one study found that 98 percent of American adults have measurable concentrations of PFCs.


    Knox recommends the following steps to lower exposure to PFCs:

    • Use hardwood floors instead of stain-resistant carpet;
    • Wear all-cotton clothing and avoid putting children in flame-resistant clothing;
    • Make popcorn using an air popper instead of a microwave;
    • Microwave food in glass instead of plastic containers; and
    • Use cast-iron cookware instead of non-stick coated cookware.


    On Whole Living.com, Kimberly Rider, who is an eco-designer and author of The Healthy Home Workbook: Easy Steps to Eco-Friendly Living, also suggested:

    • Assess your clothing to find out if the fabric is natural and whether it has been chemically treated.
    • Use other types of cookware, including stainless steel, clay, ceramic and glass (as well as the previously mentioned cast iron).

    ABC News notes that PFCS have been linked to cancers and thyroid disease in animal studies. Furthermore, the type of PFCs that are found in nonstick frying pants has been known in rare cases to kill birds when food was cooked at high heat; additionally, these PFCs have on rare occasion been known to flu-like symptoms in people.


  • I’d suggest that you first consider making small changes (such as the type of frying pan you use and how you make your popcorn). And if you’re going to be remodeling your home, consider some of the larger changes (like hardwood floors).  And stay tuned for future information from this group of researchers.

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Published On: March 25, 2011