Air Monitoring

Could Air Pollution Cause Irregularities for Women?

Feb 26 2018 Read 1028 Times

A new study from Boston University suggests that poor air quality may have a direct impact on the regularity of the female menstrual cycle. The paper, published in the journal Human Reproduction, cross-referenced data from a major US study stretching back to 1989 against information on air quality provided by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Although not definitively conclusive, the results suggested that exposure to air pollution may increase the likelihood of irregular periods, especially among younger girls. While further study is needed to verify the results, it represents another serious concern to add to the list surrounding poor air quality.

A new spin on old data

The study took as its source material the Nurses’ Health Study II (NHSII), which began in 1989 and surveyed the menstrual cycles of 116,340 women. The Boston study reduced its own sample size to a cross-sectional representation of 34,832 women (29.91% of the total) and matched these findings against air quality information supplied by the EPA over the same period.

The researchers found that women who were exposed to higher levels of air pollution between the ages of 14 and 18 suffered an increased likelihood of irregular periods, as well as a delay in achieving regularity in late adolescence and early adulthood. Due to its retrospective nature, it’s difficult for the study to definitively prove that air pollution is the key contributing factor in the data, but it certainly signposts the possibility and agrees with previous literature on the topic.

Wider implications of the study

In the past, studies have shown that poor air quality could be responsible for a whole host of health complications, including cardiovascular and respiratory conditions, reduced effectiveness of antibiotics and increased potential of disease and, significantly, debilitating effects on the reproductive endocrine system. In particular, it has been suggested that pollution could contribute to infertility and polycystic ovary syndrome, a gynaecologic complaint.

Experts in the field said that the study raised concerns about a link between menstruation and pollution, but urged further investigations were required to learn more on the topic. “The reproductive system of these girls, who are just beginning to get their periods, may be particularly sensitive to the effects of air pollution,” said endocrinologist Mary Rausch. “The possible link between our environment and the reproductive health of our young women is certainly concerning.”

Clean air imperative

The implication that air pollution could affect the regularity of female menstrual cycles is just one more reason why it’s imperative that we monitor emissions levels from mining, industrial activity and vehicular exhausts and do our utmost to reduce the levels of contaminants in the air we breathe. As this study shows, clean air could impact not only the health of the current generation, but future ones as well.

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