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Menopause Health Center

Chemicals Linked to Early Menopause

Study Suggests Exposure to Chemicals Called PFCs May Be Associated With Earlier Menopause
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PFCs and Menopause continued...

While PFOA levels were higher in her research participants, their PFOS levels were similar to those in the general population.

The median age of menopause is 51 (half of women go through earlier, half later), Knox says. Early menopause before the age of 40 is linked with increased risks of heart disease and with bone loss, which can raise the risk of osteoporosis.

A reverse association is possible, Knox says. Monthly menstruation eliminates some of the PFCs from the body. Early menopause may cause PFC levels in the blood to rise, she says, as monthly menstruation stops.

However, she says, even if the association is reversed, the levels are a concern, she says.

Among the study limitations is its ''snapshot in time'' factor, as it looked only at exposure at one point.

Perspective of Environmental Experts

PFCs have been a concern of environmentalists for years, says Olga Naidenko, PhD, a senior scientist at the Environmental Working Group, Washington. She reviewed the study findings for WebMD.

''This is the first study to our knowledge that looks specifically at menopause timing. It really demonstrates that these kinds of chemical are very toxic."

One strength of the study is its size, says Jennifer Sass, PhD, senior scientist for the Natural Resources Defense Council, who also reviewed the findings.

"This study raises some red flags regarding a common chemical pollutant that is found in the bodies of most Americans," says Sass. "I hope that more research can be done to understand the effect better."

Industry Perspective

A spokeswoman for DuPont took exception with using the term PFCs. The term PFCs ''is not well defined and is overly broad," says Janet E. Smith of DuPont. "There are many chemicals that could potentially fall under that umbrella and they have very different properties and health profiles."

DuPont does not make PFOS or use it in its processes or product, she says. She points out that Knox found no link between PFOA and hormone levels. The company does make products with PFOA, she says.

3M decided in May 2000 to phase out production of PFOA, PFOS and PFOS-related products after research found PFOS was widely dispersed in wildlife and found in low levels in people, according to the company’s web site.

To avoid exposure, Knox suggests avoiding stain-resistant, water-resistant, and fire-retardant products. Some food containers may also have PFCs.

"Eventually we are going to have to have a policy about reducing these," she says.  However, ''we need more data before setting policy."

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