Several Factors Linked to Endocrine-Disrupting Chemical Levels in Black Women.
Black women in the US are two to three times more likely than their White counterparts to develop fibroids, a hormone-dependent disease. Some recent studies suggest that Black women are exposed to higher levels of endocrine-disrupting chemicals than White women through a range of personal care and consumer products. But few prospective studies have gathered race-specific data on the presence of these chemicals in non-pregnant women.
Now, a new study led by School of Public Health researchers found that concentrations of BPA and other phenols, triclocarban, and parabens in a cohort of Black women varied by the women’s body mass indices (BMIs) and education, as well as by season.
The study was published in the Journal of Exposure Science & Environmental Epidemiology.
“Although Black women may disproportionately be exposed to endocrine-disrupting chemicals, and disproportionately affected by some of the health outcomes associated with exposure, this population has not been well-represented in existing research on these chemicals,” says lead study author Traci Bethea (SPH’11), assistant professor of medicine at the School of Medicine and a researcher in BU’s Slone Epidemiology Center.
The study is the first from a team of researchers led by Lauren Wise, professor of epidemiology, trying to understand the role these chemicals play in the high rate of fibroids among Black women in the US. Their research uses data from the Study of Environment, Lifestyle and Fibroids (SELF), which follows a cohort of 1,693 Black women who were 23–34 years old and living in the Detroit metropolitan area when they were recruited between 2010 and 2012. The participants regularly answer questionnaires, and have their height and weight information and urine and blood samples collected.
For the current study, the researchers looked at the concentrations of several endocrine-disrupting chemicals in the urine of 766 of the participants: seven phenols, tricocarban, and four parabens. These chemicals are present in a range of products including food containers, sunscreens, hair products, personal lubricants, menstrual products, and even cash register receipts.
The researchers found all of these chemicals in the urine of over half of the participants. The concentrations were highest for methyl paraben, propyl paraben, and the phenol benzophenone-3. The strongest factors associated with the chemical concentrations were the season of urine collection, education level, and BMI.
The authors wrote that the varying levels of different chemicals by season could reflect different product use, such as sunscreen in summer, as well as diet, travel, and/or changes in the levels of these chemicals in the environment. Higher levels of some of the chemicals among participants with more education, they wrote, could be linked to the pattern in the US of people with more education eating more seafood. The researchers also noted that the levels of some chemicals were higher when BMI was higher, while others were lower, likely having to do with an array of processes and interactions between different chemicals and fat in the body.
The study’s other co-authors included: postdoctoral associate Amelia Wesselink; Jennifer Weuve, associate professor of epidemiology; and Michael McClean, professor of environmental health. The other co-authors were Russ Hauser and Paige Williams of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health; Xiaoyun Ye and Antonia Calafat of the National Center for Environmental Health; and Donna Baird of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.
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