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Baby boomers, warn your daughters pesticides may cause infertility

Harold Mandel's picture
Image of a woman in pain

Many women live in fear of suffering from endometriosis. This estrogen dependent disease is associated with irregular bleeding, pain during sex, and even infertility. The lowered quality of life associated with endometriosis has women very interested in better understandings of what they may be able to do to prevent this illness. New research shows there is a link between exposure to organochlorine pesticides and endometriosis, which women should be alerted about.

Organochlorine pesticides are associated with increased risk of endometriosis

The findings of research dealing with organochlorine pesticides and the increased risk of endometriosis are published in the journal of Environmental Health Perspectives. Because endometriosis is considered an estrogen-dependent disease, persistent environmental chemicals which have hormonal properties, such as organochlorine pesticides (OCPs), could potentially affect endometriosis risk.

In this research there was a review of data from the Women’s Risk of Endometriosis (WREN) study, which is a population-based case-control study of endometriosis which was done among 18-49 year old female participants of a large healthcare system in western Washington State It was observed that serum concentrations of β-hexachlorocyclohexane and mirex were positively associated with endometriosis. The researchers concluded that the use of environmentally persistent OCPs may impact the health of women during their reproductive-age.

There are other considerations for causes of endometrosis. EmaxHealth reporter Deborah Mitchell has written on the association of endometriosis with inflammatory bowel disease. Denise Reynolds RD has reported for Emaxhealth on the association between trans fats and childhood obesity with an increase in risk for endometriosis.

Endometriosis can be very painful

The Endometriosis Foundation of America offers a clear description of what endometriosis is. In women and girls who suffer from endometriosis, some of their menstrual fluids are implanted abnormally in areas which are outside of the uterus. These implants may eventually accumulate in the women's bladder, bowel, ovaries, cul de sac, and other organs, which can lead to the development of adhesions, scarring and invasive nodules. This can cause a myriad of disturbing symptoms, including:

1: Painful periods

2: Chronic pelvic pain

3: Infertility

4: Pain associated with intercourse and sexual activity

5: Painful bowel movements and rectal pain

6: Urinary pain or difficulty

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There are estimated to be almost 200 million women and girls worldwide who suffer from endometriosis. In North America alone it has been estimated there are about 8.5 million sufferers. The average age for diagnosis of this disorder is 27 years old. Endometriosis is one of the leading causes of female infertility.

There are several treatment options for endometriosis

There are various treatment options for this condition which include:

1: Laparoscopic excision surgery and other laparoscopic surgeries

2: Hysterectomy

3: Hormonal Treatments

4: Pain Killers

5: Diet and Nutrition

6: Alternative Therapies

Reporting on alternative treatments for endometriosis, EmaxHealth reporter Deborah Mitchell writes on the interesting consideration of the use of Traditional Chinese Medicine for the use of fertility treatment.

The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center offers an interesting discussion of the research dealing with exposure to pesticides and increased risk for endometriosis. Research at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center has found that two organochlorine pesticides are associated with an increased risk for the development of endometriosis. It was observed that women who had higher exposures to two such pesticides, beta-hexachlorocyclohexane and mirex, had a 30- to 70-percent increase in their risk for this condition.

This is a serious condition. As noted by lead author Kristen Upson, Ph.D., the symptoms of endometriosis are often chronic and debilitating. This condition therefore often negatively affects a woman's quality of life, her personal relationships and her productivity at work. The principal investigator of the study, Victoria Holt, Ph.D., has said, “This research is important, as endometriosis is a serious condition that can adversely affect the quality of a woman’s life, yet we still do not have a clear understanding of why endometriosis develops in some women but not in others.” It is Upson's feeling this research helps to partially explain this issue.

The use of organochlorine pesticides should be controlled globally

Upson has pointed out that even though the use of organochlorine pesticides has been restricted for use or banned in the U.S. for the past several decades, these chemicals were detected in the blood samples of women in this study and were found to be associated with increased endometriosis risk. A clear concern is that persistent environmental chemicals, even those which were used in the past, may affect the health of the present generation of reproductive-age women with regard endometriosis. It is the hope of Upson that these findings will help to influence current global policymakers to reduce or eliminate the use of these chemicals.

It has been my observation that women often really do live in fear of being hit with endometriosis and when they are afflicted with this disorder they suffer a great deal. Therefore clearly all possible initiatives should be taken to inform women that exposure to organochlorine pesticides is associated with this disorder, while encouraging our lawmakers at national and international levels to act aggressively to place restrictions on the use of organochlorine pesticides. This is not a problem which should be taken lightly in view of the tragic ramifications of seeing women during the prime of their lives during their child bearing ages suffer so much and often become infertile from exposure to these chemicals.