Researchers at Washington University, Missouri found that a group of chemicals known as ‘phthalates’ found in cosmetics, makeup, plastics, food packaging and other consumer products may disrupt women’s reproductive system, leading to early menopause. Phthalates are already thought to increase the risk of cancer, diabetes and obesity.
The study looked at the levels of phthalates in the blood or urine of 5,700 women. They found that those exposed to high doses have gone through the menopause an average of 2.3 years before the others. The average age of the menopause is 51, so women exposed to the highest levels were hitting it at aged 49.
In some cases, women may going through the menopause 15 years early, impacting their reproductive health and ability to have children.
“We don’t know yet if some of them are going through it one year earlier or some are going through it 15 years earlier.” Dr Natalia Grindler said.
“Although the research is still preliminary, but it’s enough to suggest it is having a detrimental impact in the long term.”
However, British experts urged women not to worry themselves unnecessarily.
Professor Richard Sharpe, who specializes in reproductive health at the University of Edinburgh says that the phthalate exposure is everywhere so it’s impossible to avoid it altogether. But you can lessen your phthalate exposure by eating fresh, unpackaged foods and looking for products labeled ‘phthalate-free’.