London: Chemicals found in make-up, hairspray and food packaging are causing women to hit menopause early, researchers warn.
Researchers at Washington University, Missouri found that a group of chemicals known as pthalates found in plastics, cosmetics, household products and food packaging may be disrupting women`s reproductive systems, including their ovaries, and leading to early menopause.
Pthalates are already thought to raise the risk of cancer, diabetes and obesity.
The study found that those exposed to high doses have been found to go through menopause almost two and a half years before other women, the Daily Mail reported.
In some cases, these chemicals may be causing women to stop having periods 15 years too soon, say scientists.
The study looked at the levels of pthalates in the blood or urine of 5,700 women.
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.
Dr Natalia Grindler found that some women may be going through the menopause 15 years early, in their mid-thirties.
An early menopause is linked to higher rates of strokes, heart disease, bone problems and fatal brain haemorrhages.
"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," Grindler said.
"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," Grindler added.
The study 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.
Experts urged women not to worry themselves unnecessarily.
"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," Professor Richard Sharpe, who specialises in reproductive health at the University of Edinburgh said.
The study was presented at the American Society of Reproductive Medicine`s conference in San Diego, California.