Study links early menopause to everyday exposure – but NOT cosmetics!


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Study links early menopause to everyday exposure – but NOT cosmetics!

Related tags Personal care products Cosmetics

A new study has linked high levels of chemicals that we come across every day in the environment, plastics, and other household items, with women experiencing menopause 2-4 years earlier – however none of the concerning ingredients studied are used in cosmetics, despite some media reports.

While cosmetics are mentioned as containing phthalates in the study and some reports have taken this to mean that cosmetics are dangerous, the two phthalates that were identified as associated with early menopause in the research are not used as ingredients in cosmetics products.

In the study, researchers at Washington University School of Medicine looked at blood and urine levels of 111 chemicals suspected of interfering with hormones in the body finding that women with high levels were affected more than women with lower levels of these chemicals.

The researchers urged people to microwave food in glass or paper containers instead of in plastic and try to learn more about the ingredients in cosmetics, personal care products and food packaging they use every day.

Senior author Amber Cooper, MD, an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology, also states: “This study doesn’t prove causation, but the associations raise a red flag and support the need for future research.”

Not in use

From the list of 111, 15 chemicals were identified as needing closer evaluation because they were significantly associated with earlier ages of menopause and potentially have detrimental effects on ovarian function.

Of these 15, two were phthalates (MEHHP and MEOHP), the rest were industrial chemicals.

Both of these phthalates are breakdown products of diethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP) which is banned in cosmetics products in the EU and is no longer used in the manufacturing of cosmetic and personal care including nail products.

“DEHP is not expressly forbidden in the US and so it is possible some companies continue to use it, though companies making the same product for the US and EU could not do so because DEHP is expressly forbidden in the EU,”​ says Dr Chris Flower, Director-General of CTPA.

“MEHHP and MEOHP are not likely to be used as direct ingredients in cosmetics in the US since they have not been given an INCI name. This happens to any ingredient once it is adopted for use to ensure it is always labelled with the same name now across the EU/USA and increasingly elsewhere in the world,”​ he tells Cosmetics Design.

Many of the chemicals included in the study, have also been banned from US production because of their negative health effects; however the authors did say that they still are produced globally and are pervasive in the environment, though not in cosmetics.

“At no time do the authors of the study draw a link between their findings and ingredients in make-up and personal care products, as suggested in some of the alarming headlines,”​ continues Flower.


“The other chemicals highlighted in the study are pesticides or industrial chemicals, none of which have any role to play as cosmetic ingredients.”


The study itself follows a number of others done previously looking into links between endocrine-disrupting chemicals and menopause, but the authors say this new research is the first to broadly explore the association on a large scale, using a nationally representative sample of patients across the United States.

In the study, Cooper and researchers at the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine and the Wadsworth Center at the State University of New York at Albany analyzed data collected from 1999-2008 as part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, conducted by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The survey included data from 31,575 people, including 1,442 menopausal women who had been tested for levels of endocrine-disrupting chemicals.



Natalia M. Grindler, Jenifer E. Allsworth, George A. Macones, Kurunthachalam Kannan, Kimberly A. Roehl, Amber R. Cooper. Persistent Organic Pollutants and Early Menopause in U.S. Women​. PLOS ONE​, 2015; 10 (1): e0116057 DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0116057

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