Scientists claim phthalates in cosmetics may lead to early menopause

By Michelle Yeomans

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Menopause

According to scientists at Washington University, phthalates could have a negative impact on hormones, potentially bringing on early menopause for some women.

The team of researchers at the University in St. Louis looked at phthalate levels in the blood and urine of over 5,000 women to which they allegedly found those with the highest levels to be experiencing menopause at least two years earlier than others.

According to the co-author of the study, Dr. Natalia Grindler; “We absolutely think these chemicals have the potential to affect ovarian function and human reproduction.”

Grindler further noted that although the typical age of menopause is 51, these substances may even be causing some women to go through 'the change' 15 years early. In saying this however, the obstetrician-gynecologist says that her team is still to determine why some experience menopause one year earlier and others as much as fifteen.  

"There's a lot that we don't know at this point, our research is still preliminary, but it's enough to suggest it is having a detrimental impact in the long term,” ​she explains.

The team of scientists are also yet to determine why some women are exposed to higher levels of these chemicals than others, an area the co-author suggests may be from the likes of some wearing more make-up than others, for example.

Phthalate furore

Manufacturers use phthalates because they cling to the skin and nails to give perfumes, hair gels and nail polishes more staying power. A 2003 European Union directive banned their use in cosmetics sold in Europe, but US and Canadian regulators have yet to make a final decision.

Grindler and her team are said to have used findings from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey to arrive at their conclusion, to which they recently presented at the American Society of Reproductive Medicine's conference in California last month.  

Industry stance on the matter...

The issue of phthalates in cosmetics has been a topical one for the industry, some scientists at government agencies have agreed that exposure could cause a wide range of health and reproductive problems whilst the likes of industry-backed bodies like the 'Phthalate Information Center' (PIC) say there is no reliable evidence for concern.

Whilst recent studies linked the substances to increasing the risks of obesity and diabetes, PIC accused many groups of 'cherry-picking' their results.

"There is no reliable evidence that any phthalate has ever caused a health problem for a human from its intended use," ​they said on the matter.

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