Study Finds PFAS Exposure May Cause Early Menopause

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substance (PFAS) exposure may cause menopause to occur two years earlier in women, according to a new study published in the Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

Known as ‘forever chemicals,’ PFAS are manmade and used in a wide variety of nonstick and waterproof products and firefighting foams. PFAS chemicals can contaminate drinking water, and it has been estimated that 110 million Americans (one out of three) may consume drinking water contaminated with these chemicals.

“PFAS are everywhere. Once they enter the body, they don’t break down and build up over time,” says the study’s lead author Ning Ding, PhD, MPH, of the University of Michigan School of Public Health in Ann Arbor, Mich. “Because of their persistence in humans and potentially detrimental effects on ovarian function, it is important to raise awareness of this issue and reduce exposure to these chemicals.”

The researchers studied 1,120 midlife women from the Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation, a 17-year-long prospective cohort study. They found that women with high PFAS levels in their blood samples reached menopause two years earlier than those with lower levels.

“PFAS are everywhere. Once they enter the body, they don’t break down and build up over time.”

“Even menopause a few years earlier than usual could have a significant impact on cardiovascular and bone health, quality of life, and overall health in general among women,” says corresponding author Sung Kyun Park, ScD, MPH, of the University of Michigan School of Public Health.

Other authors include Siobán D. Harlow, John F. Randolph Jr., Bhramar Mukherjee, and Stuart Batterman of the University of Michigan School of Public Health; Antonia M. Calafat of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Ga.; and Ellen B. Gold of the University of California in Davis, Calif.

The study was supported by the National Institute on Aging, the National Institute of Environmental Health, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and the National Institute of Nursing Research.

The manuscript, “Associations of Perfluoroalkyl Substances with Incident Natural Menopause: The Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation,” was published online, ahead of print.

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