Make-up Can 'trigger' Early Menopause

Common chemicals used in make-up, hairspray and even food packaging are causing women to reach menopause earlier, warn researchers. Phthalates (pronounced "THAH-layts”), are also known as "plasticizers”. About a billion pounds per year are produced worldwide. That new car smell, which becomes especially strong after the car has been sitting in the sun for awhile, is partly the pungent odor of phthalates volatilizing from a hot plastic dashboard.

Phthalates have previously been shown to play a role in increased risks for cancer, diabetes, obesity, and even brain feminization in young boys. In August 2000, scientists in Puerto Rico reported on an association between exposure to phthalates and premature breast development in young girls, possibly linking the chemical compounds to trends in early puberty. Now, scientists are concerned that they may also have a hand in interfering with the female reproductive system, in particular with ovarian function.

Researchers at Washington University, Missouri found that pthalates may be disrupting women's reproductive systems, including their ovaries, and leading to early menopause.

Their study found that women exposed to high doses have been found to go through menopause almost two and a half years before other women. In some cases, these chemicals may be causing women to stop having periods 15 years too soon, say the research scientists. The study looked at the levels of pthalates in the blood or urine of 5,700 women. Those with the highest amounts were found to have gone through the menopause an average of 2.3 years before the others.

The typical age of the menopause is 51, so women exposed to the highest levels were hitting it aged 49. Doctors discovered that some women may be going through the menopause as much as 15 years early, in their mid-thirties.

An early menopause is linked to higher rates of strokes, heart disease, bone problems and fatal brain hemorrhages. The study could not explain why some women were exposed to higher levels of these chemicals. It may be that they wore more make-up, drank bottled water or ate more packaged foods.

Symptoms of Early Menopause

These symptoms are often the same as those experienced by women undergoing natural menopause and may include:

  • Irregular or missed periods
  • Periods that are heavier or lighter than normal
  • Hot flashes

These symptoms are a sign that the ovaries are producing less estrogen.

Some women may also experience:

  • Vaginal dryness
  • Bladder irritability and worsening of loss of bladder control
  • Emotional changes
  • Dry skin, eyes, or mouth
  • Sleeplessness
  • Decreased sex drive

It remains unclear why certain women experience greater exposure to phthalates, but doctors think that it may be due to higher than average use of make-up or consumption of packaged food and bottled water. There is much that is yet to be learned about phthalates, and much of the research is still preliminary. However, it’s enough to suggest that they are having long-term detrimental impacts on humans.

Phthalates are everywhere and impossible to avoid completely. Eating fresh, unpackaged food and phthalate-free cosmetics can reduce phthalate exposure but will not entirely eliminate it.

Beware of the term "fragrance," which refers to a combination of compounds, possibly including phthatates. Choose plastics with the recycling code 1, 2 or 5. Recycling codes 3 and 7 are more likely to contain bisphenol A or phthalates.

Menopause and the symptoms associated with it can severely disrupt your quality of life.

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