Researchers from the Washington University School of Medicine have examined the women’s blood and urine for signs of 111 chemicals that are suspected of interfering with the natural production and distribution of hormones in the body, the study said. They found 15 chemicals that were significantly associated with earlier menopause and declines in ovarian function. They included nine polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), three pesticides, two phthalates.
The findings, published on line by PLOS ONE, were based on a nationally representative sample of 1,442 menopausal women, whose average age was 61.
While the study did not prove that the chemical exposures caused earlier menopause, study authors said the associations they uncovered merit further research. "Chemicals linked to earlier menopause may lead to an early decline in ovarian function, and our results suggest we as a society should be concerned," said senior author Amber Cooper, an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the Washington University School of Medicine in Saint-Louis, Missouri.
Ovarian function is important because without it, women are infertile and may be at risk for earlier development of heart disease, osteoporosis and other health problems.
Several media reports made the link between cosmetics and the presence of two phthalates in the list of 15 substances correlated with earlier menopause.
“I am concerned that journalists may not have actually read the report itself and understood what it said. At no time do the authors of the study draw a link between their findings and ingredients in make-up and personal care products, as suggested in some of the alarming headlines,” said Dr Chris Flower, Director-General of CTPA, the UK cosmetic trade association. “The two phthalates mentioned are not used as ingredients in make-up in the EU. They are breakdown products (metabolites) of the phthalate DEHP , which is itself banned from all cosmetics in the EU. The other chemicals highlighted in the study are pesticides or industrial chemicals, none of which have any role to play as cosmetic ingredients.”