Sipping on bottled water after the gym or never leaving the house without a touch of make up could be bad for you, according to a new scientific research.
That’s because research has found everyday objects and surroundings such as plastics, cosmetics, electrical appliances and industrial pollutants could lead to an earlier menopause.
A study by Washington University School of Medicine in St Louis revealed that women with high levels of the substances in their blood and urine experienced menopause two to four years sooner than those with lower levels.
And the 111 chemicals investigated are believed to interfere with hormones in the body, including PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) which is now banned in the UK.
So how do these chemicals affect our bodies?
“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 US lead researcher Dr Amber Cooper.
“Many of these chemical exposures are beyond our control because they are in the soil, water and air.
“But we can educate ourselves about our day-to-day chemical exposures and become more aware of the plastics and other household products we use.”
How did scientists gather the information?
Researchers analysed data from 31,575 people collected from 1999 to 2008 as part of the US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.
Participants included 1,442 menopausal women with an average age of 61 who had been tested for levels of hormone-disrupting chemicals. None of these women were undergoing hormone replacement therapy (HRT) or had their ovaries removed.
The women’s blood and urine were tested for the presence of 111 mostly man-made chemicals, including persistent substances that take more than a year to break down.
What did they find?
The scientists identified 15 chemicals – nine PCBs, three pesticides, two phthalates (found in plastics and common household items as well as hair spray) and a furan (industrial combustion by-products) – that were significantly associated with earlier menopause and had the potential to harm ovarian function.
“Earlier menopause can alter the quality of a woman’s life and has profound implications for fertility, health and our society,” said Cooper. “Understanding how the environment affects health is complex.
“This study doesn’t prove causation, but the associations raise a red flag and support the need for future research.”
What you can do to stop chemicals entering your body?
One simple safeguard people could take was to microwave food in glass or paper containers instead of plastic, says Cooper.
Ashley Grossman, Professor of Endocrinology at Oxford University, believes making simple lifestyle changes could help.
“It would be sensible to try and reduce environmental contaminants even further, particularly plastic bottles.
“Perhaps many of those walking around and continually sipping (expensive) bottled water will decide it might be healthier to abandon this unnecessary habit altogether.”
The research is reported in the online journal Public Library of Science ONE.