Women’s tumour risk from household chemicals

Tumour risk
Tumour risk
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Up to 70 per cent of women could suffer conditions caused by chemicals found in household products, according to new research.

The hormone disrupting chemicals found in food containers, cosmetics, toys and pesticides can cause fibroids in the womb - benign tumours that in some cases lead to a host of health problems including preventing pregnancy.

They can also trigger a painful condition known as endometriosis where the womb lining develops elsewhere in the body, the study suggests.

And it is estimated these chemicals could be costing the European Union £120 billion a year in medical costs and lost earnings with as many as 70 percent of women affected by at least one of the conditions.

Past studies show a byproduct of the pesticide DDT, a chemical known as DDE, can raise the risk of uterine fibroids.

Another group of chemicals called phthalates, which are found in plastic products and cosmetics, have been tied to growing risk of endometriosis.

DDT and phthalates are known endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) which can be physically similar to the hormones that naturally control our body’s physiology so mimic their function. They can also block the function of hormones.

They have been linked with declining sperm counts, some cancers, impaired intelligence, obesity and diabetes.

Unborn children are particularly vulnerable because exposure during key points in development can raise the risk of health problems later in life.

Professor Leonardo Trasande, of New York University, said: “The data shows protecting women from exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals could substantially reduce rates of disease and lower health care and other social costs of these conditions.”

His research published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism says the chemicals may contribute to reproductive health problems experienced by hundreds of thousands of women, costing the European Union more than £120 billion a year in health care expenditure and lost earning potential.

To assess the economic burden of exposure, a panel of global EDC experts convened to adapt existing environmental health cost models.

Based on the body of established literature, the researchers evaluated the likelihood that EDCs contributed to various medical conditions and dysfunctions.

Researchers only considered endometriosis and uterine fibroids in the analysis because there is robust data on their incidence and association with endocrine-disrupting chemical exposure.

The researchers estimated that 145,000 cases of endometriosis and 56,700 cases of uterine fibroids in Europe could be attributed to exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals.

Added Prof Trasande: “Although these two gynecological conditions affect millions of women worldwide, we recognise this analysis only reflects the tip of the iceberg.

“A growing body of evidence suggests EDC exposure is linked to a broader range of female reproductive problems, including polycystic ovary syndrome, infertility and pregnancy complications.

“These disorders also place a significant cost burden on women, their families and society as a whole.”

The economic analysis included direct costs of hospital stays, physician services, and other medical costs.

The researchers also calculated estimates of indirect costs such as lost worker productivity associated with these often painful disorders.