For most women, menopause typically begins when a woman is in her 40s or early 50s. Early signs may show up in younger women, however, and may result from a number of causes. One of these causes is exposure to greenhouse gases.
Genetics, diet, exercise, childbirth history and the onset of menstruation all play a role in the declining estrogen levels preceding menopause. Menopausal and perimenopausal symptoms vary in severity among different women and include issues such as mood swings, water retention, weight gain and irregular periods. Although the link has been suspected for many years, numerous studies now show that toxins play a major role in the early onset of menopause.
The greenhouse effect is the warming of the earth’s surface and atmosphere by airborne gases that trap the sun’s energy. The most common greenhouse gases include water vapor, methane, carbon dioxide, ozone, nitrous oxide and fluorocarbons. Some of the gases are natural, and others are synthetic. When they become so plentiful that they interrupt the earth’s natural ecosystem, they harm the environment and create health problems.
The Effect of Greenhouse Gases on Menopause
The side effects of lifesaving cancer treatments, like chemotherapy and tamoxifen, can contribute to hormonal and reproductive issues. Chemotherapy has the ability to disrupt the natural flow of hormones, thus damaging the ovaries. Tamoxifen, a drug used to treat breast cancer after chemo and radiation, may also contribute to hormonal changes and bring on early symptoms of menopause. Although the pros and cons of treating cancer with the drugs are well-understood, scientists know little about how their residues affect the environment.
Cigarette smoke, another threat to health and hormones, contains toxins like ammonia, acetone, benzene, formaldehyde, butane, turpentine and cadmium. Not only can smoking cause early menopause, but inhaling secondhand smoke can be detrimental too. Cigarette smoke increases the production of stress hormones, and elevated stress hormone levels disrupt glucose, stimulating the release of male hormones. The good news is that hormones return to their normal levels for most women when smoking is stopped. Scientists think that cigarette smoke has minimal impact on greenhouse gases, but the farming and processing of tobacco is a problem.
The Research on Greenhouses Gases and Menopause
Studies from the ANTIAGING Institute of California have found a link between early menopause and exposure to perfluorocarbons, also known as PFCs. PFCs have been widely used in products like plastic containers, non-stick cookware, furniture and carpeting. Although they were phased out in 2015, many products are still around. Harmful residues still can be found in soil, plants, water, animals and people. Animal studies show that PFCs inhibit hormones, suggesting a possible cause for early menopause in women.
In 2011, researchers at the West Virginia University School of Medicine in Morgantown studied nearly 26,000 women between the ages of 18 and 65. These women were also part of a larger project that looked at people affected by PFC toxins from a chemical manufacturing facility in Parkersburg, West Virginia between 2005 and 2006. Researchers questioned volunteers about menstruation and menopause before taking blood samples.
The samples were tested for two kinds of PFCs. Test results showed that the women between the ages of 42 and 65 years of age who had the highest levels of the PFCs also experienced the earliest symptoms of menopause. They were 40 percent more likely to have entered early menopause than their peers. They also had lower levels of estrogen.
The research in West Virginia was followed by a response from the American Council on Science and Health, questioning the link between PFCs and health.
ACSH’s Dr. Josh Bloom says, “the authors [of the study] are clearly implying that PFCs cause menopause by claiming that women with menopause have more PFCs in their blood. But there is an alternate explanation that makes just as much sense: women who have reached menopause are obviously older than those who haven’t and have spent more time using non-stick cookware and therefore have had more exposure to the PFCs over their lifetime. This is just as reasonable an explanation for the findings but is downplayed in the article.” He continues, “Anyhow, people eating at my home should be far more worried about my cooking than the pans.”
Whether greenhouse gases play a direct role in the cause of menopause or mere timing and aging is the culprit, research for more conclusive proof continues.