PFAS Exposure May Lead to Early Menopause in Women

Woman on bridge in the forest.

New research from Ning Ding and Sung Kyun Park

Women exposed to PFAS may experience menopause two years earlier than other women, according to a new University of Michigan study published in the Endocrine Society's Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) are used in a wide variety of nonstick and waterproof products and firefighting foams. These man-made "forever chemicals" can contaminate drinking water—consumed perhaps by more than 100 million Americans.

"PFAS are everywhere. Once they enter the body, they don't break down and build up over time," said lead author Ning Ding, who conducted the study as a doctoral candidate at the University of Michigan School of Public Health and is now a postdoctoral researcher at the university. "Because of their persistence in humans and potentially detrimental effects on ovarian function, it is important to raise awareness of this issue and reduce exposure to these chemicals."

Ding and colleagues studied 1,120 midlife women from the Study of Women's Health Across the Nation, a 17-year-long prospective cohort study. They found that women with high PFAS levels in their blood samples reached menopause two years earlier than those with lower levels.

"Even menopause a few years earlier than usual could have a significant impact on cardiovascular health, bone health and quality of life, and overall health in general among women," said corresponding author Sung Kyun Park, associate professor of Epidemiology and Environmental Health Sciences at the University of Michigan School of Public Health.

Other authors include Siobán Harlow, John Randolph, Bhramar Mukherjee and Stuart Batterman of the University of Michigan; Antonia Calafat of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; and Ellen Gold of the University of California, Davis.

The study was supported by the National Institute on Aging, National Institute of Environmental Health, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, and National Institute of Nursing Research.