A recent study published by the Endocrine Society found that women who had higher levels of per- and poly-fluoroalkyl (PFAS) chemicals in their blood also experienced early menopause compared to women who had lower levels. Researchers have found that menopause occurred about an average of two years earlier than expected in women with high PFAS blood levels.
Aside from menopause, the contaminants were also discovered to cause a myriad of other health issues, including thyroid disease and cancers of different types.
PFAS are commonly called "forever" chemicals because technically, they can survive for an indefinite period. Because the chemicals do not break down in the body, they tend to accumulate over time.
Experts say that a lot of people are exposed to these chemicals from drinking water. According to the Endocrine Society, around 110 million Americans are at risk of exposure to these chemicals in tap water.
In May 2016, the United States Environmental Protection Agency published a document enumerating sources of exposure to these fabricated chemicals. The report revealed that some of the leading causes include drinking water and food.
The list also revealed that several consumer products such as water repellents, flame repellants, contact paper, particular food containers, and more were supplies of the chemicals.
Furthermore, scientists say that contaminants may come from different sources, such as non-stick cooking pans and the foams used to stop fires.
Early Menopause in Women
The U.K. National Health Service says that early menopause occurs when a woman's periods stop before the age of 45. Experts say it could happen naturally or could come as a side effect of specific treatments.
Furthermore, early menopause can also happen naturally if a woman's ovaries fail to make normal levels of certain hormones, particularly estrogen. This condition is also referred to as primary ovarian insufficiency or premature ovarian failure.
According to the researchers, early menopause can lead to certain problems concerning heart and bone health. Moreover, it could also decrease the overall quality of life.
Ning Ding, the study leader, explained that PFAS is widely scattered and can be detected almost everywhere. Once they enter the body, they stay there for a very long time.
Furthermore, this causes potentially harmful effects of the body, particularly with ovarian function, Ding adds. The authors urge that raising awareness about the issue is vital to reduce exposure to the said chemicals.
Water Filters: Yay or Nay?
The authors of the study say that, unfortunately, avoiding PMAS chemicals could be difficult. Another study conducted earlier this year found that while some water filters can remove these substances, others could also most likely increase exposure to them.
The study revealed that the most common types of filters, such as activated carbon filters, were less effective. On the contrary, whole-home water filtering systems were discovered to potentially increase the risk of exposure to the mentioned chemicals.
The paper also mentioned that several states in the U.S. are moving toward more rigid regulations toward maintaining quality drinking water for its citizens.
To cite an example, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) adopted a Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) of 13 parts per trillion for perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA) in late 2018. It was reportedly the first constitutional regulation of its kind.
However, despite increased awareness and prospective regulations regarding drinking water quality, PFAAs are still detected at high levels in treated drinking water time and again.