PFCs are human-made chemicals used in a variety of household products including food containers, clothing, furniture, carpets and paints. Their broad use has resulted in widespread dissemination in water, air, soil, plant life, animals and humans, even in remote parts of the world. A probability sample of U.S. adults found measurable concentrations of PFCs in 98 percent of the participants tested.
“The current study is the largest ever to be done on the endocrine-disrupting effects of perfluorocarbons in human women,” said Sarah Knox PhD of the Department of Community Medicine in Morgantown and lead author of the study. “Our data shows that after controlling for age, women of perimenopausal and menopausal age in this large population are more likely to have experienced menopause if they have higher serum concentrations of PFCs than their counterparts with lower levels.”
In this study of 25,957 women aged 18 to 65 years, researchers ascertained the menopausal status of participants and then measured their serum concentration levels of PFCs and estradiol. They found that there was an association between PFC exposure, decreased estradiol and early menopause in women over age 42. There was also an inverse association between PFC levels and estradiol in women of child bearing age but this association was not statistically significant.
“There is no doubt that there is an association between exposure to PFCs and onset of menopause, but the causality is unclear,” said Knox. “Part of the explanation could be that women in these age groups have higher PFC levels because they are no longer losing PFCs with menstrual blood anymore, but it is still clinically disturbing because it would imply that increased PFC exposure is the natural result of menopause.”
PFCs are known to have multiple adverse health outcomes including increased cardiovascular risk and impairment of the immune system.
“Our findings suggest that PFCs are associated with endocrine disruption in women and that further research on mechanisms is warranted,” said Knox.