A recent study links air pollution to disturb menstrual cycles among women. The study was published in Journal Human Reproduction. A team of researchers from the Boston University School of Medicine conducted the respective study. They found that exposure to air pollution may increase the risk of menstrual cycle irregularities in teenage girls aged 14 to 18 years old.
The present air, that we breathe, is a mixture of natural and man-made substances that pollute it. The World Health Organization (WHO) classifies these compounds as an environment-related threat for people inhaling them. They serve as risk factors for both short-term and long-term respiratory diseases. Air pollution is typically categorized as,
- Outdoor air pollution
- Indoor air pollution
The former includes exposures to fine particles produced by the burning of,
- Fossil fuels, such as coal and petroleum
- Noxious gases, such as sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide
- Chemical vapors like ground-level ozone i.e. a reactive form of oxygen and the main component of urban smog
- Tobacco smoke
On the other hand, the latter or indoor air pollution includes exposures to particulates, carbon oxides, and other pollutants by indoor air or dust. It also includes exposure to gases, such as carbon monoxide and radon, household products and chemicals, building materials, such as asbestos, formaldehyde, and lead, outdoor indoor allergens, such as cockroach and mouse dropping, tobacco smoke, molds, and pollen.
Air pollution affects the quality of life to a great extent. Various respiratory diseases including asthma and changes in lung function are often associated with air pollution. Moreover, air pollution also leads to cardiovascular diseases, adverse pregnancy outcomes like preterm birth, and even death. The WHO also recognizes air pollution as a potential cause of cancer in humans.
The researchers of the study looked at the relationship between air pollution exposure, menstrual cycle irregularity, and time to menstrual cycle regularity. They used the health and location data of more than 34,000 individuals between ages 14 to 18 years. The data was obtained from the Nurses’ Health Study 2. The researchers also used air pollution exposure metrics from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) air quality monitoring system in order to understand the participants’ air pollution exposure during a specific time window.
The results of the study led to the fact that air pollution causes menstrual cycle irregularity among girls during high school.
Shruthi Mahalingaiah, one of the authors of the study, said that air pollution is often linked to cardiovascular and pulmonary diseases. However, this study suggests that there may be other systems affected by the polluted air, such as the reproductive endocrine system. She concluded that teenage girls, exposed to polluted air, are more likely to have an irregular menstrual cycle. Mahalingaiah further added that implications on human disease may come through reducing emissions on a global and individual level.
Various other studies also show that air pollution promotes reproductive tract diseases. It not only affects the cardiovascular and respiratory systems but also the reproductive and endocrine systems.
Researchers are finding various methods to reduce air pollution exposure. Proper ventilation and cleaning regularly can help prevent indoor air pollution. It helps prevent the accumulation of dust and mold. People are advised to remove or avoid the use of any known pollutants and irritants. They must check one’s Air Quality Index (AQI), avoid heavy traffic and secondhand tobacco smoke.