Make-up ‘triggers early menopause’: Warning on chemicals in cosmetics and hairspray that can cause to stop more than two years early

  • A group of chemicals  known as pthalates are already thought to  raise the risk of cancer, diabetes and obesity
  • Researchers at Washington  University, Missouri, believe they may also cause early menopause
  • Chemicals are found in plastics, cosmetics,  household products and food packaging

By Sophie Borland

PUBLISHED:18:06 EST, 23  October 2012| UPDATED:18:06 EST, 23 October 2012


Chemicals found in make-up, hairspray and  food packaging are causing women to hit the menopause early, researchers  warn.

Those exposed to high doses have been found  to go through the change almost two and a half years before other  women.

And in some cases, these chemicals may be  causing women to stop having periods 15 years too soon, say  scientists.

Bad for your health?: Researchers believe pthalates - chemicals found in cosmetics - may bring on early menopause  

Bad for your health?: Researchers believe pthalates –  chemicals found in cosmetics – may bring on early menopause

There is already is widespread concern over  the potential health risks of pthalates, a group of chemicals found in plastics,  cosmetics, household products and food packaging.

Recent studies have shown they may increase  the risk of cancer, diabetes and obesity and there is even evidence they may  feminise the brains of young boys.

Now American researchers say the chemicals  are disrupting women’s reproductive systems,  including their ovaries, and  leading to early menopause.

Dr Natalia Grindler, from Washington  University in St Louis, Missouri, and colleagues looked at the levels of  pthalates in the blood or urine of 5,700 women.

Long-term impact: Pthalates have previously been linked to increased risks of cancer, diabetes and obesity 

Long-term impact: Pthalates have previously been linked  to increased risks of cancer, diabetes and obesity

Those with the highest amounts were found to  have gone through the menopause an average of 2.3 years before the others. The  typical age of the menopause is 51, so women exposed to the highest levels were  hitting it aged 49.

But Dr Grindler told the American Society of  Reproductive Medicine’s conference in San Diego, California, that some women may  be going through the menopause 15 years early, in their  mid-thirties.

An early menopause is linked to far higher  rates of strokes, heart disease, bone problems and fatal brain  haemorrhages.

Dr Grindler said: ‘We don’t know yet if some  of them are going through it one year earlier or some are going through it 15  years earlier.

‘Early menopause has a lot of impact on your  health. We absolutely think these chemicals have the potential to affect ovarian  function and human reproduction.

‘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 could not explain why some women were  exposed to higher levels of these chemicals. It may be that they wore more  make-up, drank bottled water or ate more packaged foods.

But British experts urged women not to worry  themselves unnecessarily.

Professor Richard Sharpe, who specialises in  reproductive health at the University of Edinburgh said: ‘My concern is not high  at this stage. Phthalate exposure is ubiquitous and thus impossible to avoid  altogether.

‘Eating fresh, unpackaged food can reduce  phthalate exposure but will not eliminate it.’

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