Altrazine - a toxic chemical found in tap water - has been found to increase the incidence of menstrual cycle irregularities and disrupt hormone levels, even when levels of the chemical are within the acceptable limits for drinking water in the US.
Altrazine - one of the most commonly used pesticides - is especially common in the mid-west where weed killers containing altrazine are liberally sprayed onto corn and other crops. Altrazine seeps into the ground water and consequently shows up in your tap water. Altrazine may be in the toxic cocktail of chemicals used on lawns too.
A 2011 study (1) compared the altrazine levels, hormones and menstrual symptoms of similarly matched women living rurally in the mid-west in Illinois and women living in Vermont. The researchers concluded that when low - but still acceptable - levels of altrazine were present in drinking water women were more likely to have menstrual irregularities and lower estrogen levels.
Women living in Illinois were almost five times more likely to have irregular menstrual cycles, six times more likely to have more than six weeks between periods and were more likely to have lowered estrogen levels at critical times of their menstrual cycle than Vermont women:
"Estimated “dose” of atrazine and chlorotriazine from tap water was inversely related to mean mid-luteal estradiol metabolite."
"Atrazine “dose” from municipal concentrations was directly related to follicular phase length and inversely related to mean mid-luteal progesterone metabolite levels."
In both communities the levels of altrazine were well below the acceptable safety limits set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) - 3 parts per billion - but the altrazine levels in tap water in Illinois were double those of Vermont. The study also revealed that women who drank more water daily had even greater likelihood of menstrual irregularities, drinking over two cups per day upped the odds or irregular menses. The researchers concluded that:
"...atrazine exposure, at levels below the US EPA MCL, is associated with increased menstrual cycle irregularity, longer follicular phases, and decreased levels of menstrual cycle endocrine biomarkers of infertile ovulatory cycles."
Prior research on humans has also shown altrazine to be hazardous, exposure has been linked to low birth weight babies, in animal studies altrazine has been linked to infertility, altered hormone levels and pregnancy loss.
Previous studies on pesticides and women's menstrual cycles have similarly found that increasing exposure is linked to longer menstrual cycles. One such study (2) on 3,103 women in the mid-nineties concluded that:
"Women who used pesticides experienced longer menstrual cycles and increased odds of missed periods compared with women who never used pesticides."
"Women who used probable hormonally active pesticides had a 60–100% increased odds of experiencing long cycles, missed periods, and intermenstrual bleeding compared with women who had never used pesticides."
If you are trying to conceive and struggling with infertility consider buying a good quality water filter that removes toxic pesticides and other chemicals from your drinking water. Buying organic produce, meats and dairy foods can give you further protection against hormone disrupting chemicals, if this is too expensive for you check out the environmental working groups’ 'dirty dozen' list at EWG.org. By avoiding the top twelve most contaminated fruits and vegetables you can avoid most pesticides.
This article is intended for informational purposes only and is NOT intended to diagnose, offer medical or nutritional treatment or replace medical or nutritional advice for which you should consult a suitably qualified physician or licensed dietitian.
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1. Environmental Research, Vol. 111, Issue 8, November 2011, Pages 1293-1301. Menstrual cycle characteristics and reproductive hormone levels in women exposed to atrazine in drinking water.Lori A. Cragina, James S. Kesnerc, Annette M. Bachanda, Dana Boyd Barrd, Juliana W. Meadowsc,Edward F. Kriegc, John S. Reifa,
2. Am. J. Epidemiol. (2004) 160 (12): 1194-1204. doi: 10.1093/aje/kwi006 . Pesticide Use and Menstrual Cycle Characteristics among Premenopausal Women in the Agricultural Health Study S. L. Farr1, G. S. Cooper, J. Cai, D. A. Savitz1, D. P. Sandler