Women’s Health Issues Linked to Insecticide Exposure, Too

If you can't get worked up over the well-being of bees, maybe you'll be moved for the sake of women's health instead.A growing body of evidence suggests exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals is linked to a broader range of female reproductive problems, including polycystic ovary syndrome, infertility and pregnancy complications. (Photo: tpmartins / Flickr)

It’s no secret that insecticides are wreaking havoc on the planet, killing the bees that pollinate a large percentage of the world’s food population. Still, if you can’t manage to get yourself worked up over the well-being of bees, maybe you’ll be moved for the sake of women’s health instead.

Newly published research in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism shows that women’s reproductive health is vulnerable to chemicals commonly found in insecticides: DDT and phthalates. Scientists attributed exposure to these chemicals with 145,000 cases of endometriosis and over 56,000 cases of uterine fibroids in European women.

Endometriosis is a condition where uterine tissue develops in other parts of the body, which can be quite painful. Uterine fibroids are non-cancerous tumors that form in the uterus that cause fertility problems. Each of these conditions is increasingly common — the majority of women in the world are impacted by at least one of these disorders — and environmental factors seem to play a part in the growing rate.

While the health problems alone should be cause for concern, even people more obsessed with “the bottom line” should pay attention to this scientific discovery. The researchers estimate that these chemicals are costing the EU $150 billion because of these particular reproductive health issues. Once you begin to calculate doctor visits, medical procedures, fertility treatments and days of missed work, the figure adds up quickly.

Keep in mind — that’s just looking at two of the issues. “Although these two gynecological conditions affect millions of women worldwide, we recognize that this analysis only reflects the tip of the iceberg,” said Leonardo Trasande, a New York University professor who worked on this research. “A growing body of evidence suggests EDC exposure is linked to a broader range of female reproductive problems, including polycystic ovary syndrome, infertility and pregnancy complications.”

In other words, that $150 billion is probably a fraction of the cost if researchers were to have looked at other women’s health issues, too. Heck, consider the non-sex specific health problems that have been connected to pesticides: cancer, asthma, hormone disruption, skin conditions, memory loss and loss of motor skills. At a certain point, it becomes pointless to attach a price to use of insecticide because it’s clearly causing too much damage to excuse.

It’s important to note that correlation does not equal causation; while the study shows strong links between the chemicals and endometriosis and uterine fibroids, that is not the same thing as saying the chemicals are absolutely responsible. At the same time, it’s also worth noting the extensive amount of research that shows the correlations between chemicals and the aforementioned health consequences. Eventually, it’s irresponsible to dismiss these repeated findings.

Though the study focused on women in Europe, DDT and phthalates are found in chemicals and even some plastics all over the world. We put ourselves in danger by using these toxins in order to grow food more easily. The damage these substances cause can’t possibly be worth the tradeoff. The time to ban these products is now.