Dr. Ami Zota, ScD, MS, recently conducted a pilot study that suggests exposure to chemicals called phthalates may lead to fibroids, uterine tumors that can cause heavy bleeding, pain, infertility, and other serious reproductive problems. Dr. Zota is an assistant professor of Environmental and Occupational Health at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health (GW Milken Institute SPH).
The study, “Phthalates Exposure and Uterine Fibroid Burden among Women Undergoing Surgical Treatment for Fibroids: A Preliminary Study,” was published November 15 in the journal Fertility and Sterility.
Phthalates are harmful chemicals found in cosmetics, fast food and other common household items. These chemicals are linked to a wide range of health problems in men, women, and children, including pregnancy complications, infertility, and obesity.
Dr. Zota and her colleagues conducted this pilot study on 57 pre-menopausal women undergoing surgical treatment for fibroids, including a hysterectomy. Most of the women who participated in the study were black, overweight or obese and college educated. The team analyzed urine samples taken from the women and found that 90 percent had exposures to most of the phthalates in the study.
This study suggests that the higher the exposure to phthalates, the greater the chance that women had larger fibroids. Additional research needs to solidify the connection between phthalates and fibroids, especially for black women, Dr. Zota said. If researchers can confirm the link, then they might be able to find ways to lower exposure to phthalates and thus prevent related health problems, including the development of painful or large fibroids.