Endometriosis, a disease that causes tissue to grow outside the uterus walls and can cause severe pain and infertility, is crippling for the more than five million women who suffer from it in the U.S. And while it’s long been known that the disease is associated with increased estrogen levels, new research suggests that pesticides may also be linked to the disease.
CNN reports on a study published in Environmental Health Perspectives that found that women with higher levels of pesticides in their blood were more prone to have endometriosis. It is believed that organochlorine pesticides (OCPs) mimic estrogen which is likely the link between the two.
Read more about causes of endometriosis
In this study, researchers looked at ten OCPs and found that of the 786 women (248 with surgically confirmed endometriosis and 538 undiagnosed women) they tested, 90 percent of them had the OCP beta-HCH in their blood. And those who fell into the top 50 percent of the highest levels of beta-HCH were 2.5 times more likely to be diagnosed with endometriosis than the 25 percent with the lowest levels of it.
The other OCP that showed an association with endometriosis is called Mirex, and the study found that the 50 percent of women with the highest levels of this OCP were 50 percent more likely to suffer from the disease than those with the lowest levels of it.
While the association between these OCPs and endometriosis seems clear from this study, what is also alarming is that these OCPs have been restricted by the EPA and haven’t been widely used since the 1960s.
Study author and postdoctoral fellow at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, Kristen Upson said, “What piqued our interest is that these chemicals are so highly persistent and take years to degrade in the environment. We detected these chemicals in the blood of women despite their being banned or severely restricted in the United States for the past several decades.”
This is more evidence of the importance of thoroughly testing the impact of long-term exposure of chemicals before allowing them to market.