MIAMI - Women whose bodies contained high levels of certain chemicals found in plastics and cosmetics experienced menopause two to four years earlier than women with lower amounts in their systems, according to US researchers.
While the study in the journal Plos One did not prove that the chemical exposures caused earlier menopause, the study authors said the associations they had uncovered merited further research.
"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 senior author Amber Cooper, an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at the Washington University School of Medicine.
The findings were based on a sample of 1,442 menopausal women whose average age was 61.
None of the women were taking oestrogen-replacement therapies, nor had they undergone surgery to remove their ovaries.
Researchers examined the women's blood and urine and found 15 chemicals that were significantly associated with earlier menopause and declines in ovarian function. They included nine polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), three pesticides, two phthalates typically found in plastics, cosmetics and soap, and a toxic chemical known as a furan.
"Many of these chemical exposures are beyond our control because they are in the soil, water and air," Ms Cooper said.
"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."
She recommended using glass containers to microwave food and minimising exposure to harmful chemicals in cosmetics and personal care products.