Progressive industrialization has resulted in the production of a multitude of chemicals that are released into the environment on a daily basis. A current review focuses on the relationship between persistent, organic chemical exposure and women’s health disorders, particularly cancer, cardio-metabolic events and reproductive health.
By Banrida Wahlang
Environmental chemicals or pollutants are not only hazardous to our ecosystem but also lead to various health problems that affect the human population worldwide irrespective of gender, race or age. A review, recently published in Reviews on Environmental Health, focuses on the effects of exposure to environmental chemicals, particularly a class of compounds known as persistent organic pollutants (POPs) that include pesticides and dioxins, in women.
The authors take into account multiple studies reporting harmful effects of such chemicals as well as studies that reported different effects in men and women. Indeed, exposure to POPs can lead to certain disorders specific in women, such as breast cancer and ovarian diseases. However, these chemicals can also affect other organs such as the liver, eventually causing disruption in the body’s function and metabolism. Moreover, from the evidence available so far, women appear to be more sensitive to certain disorders caused by environmental chemicals such as cardiovascular diseases.
The article also highlights the importance of considering sex and gender when evaluating the health impacts of chemical exposures. It also draws into account the lack of studies that focus on women’s cardio-metabolic health when it comes to environmental toxicology. Considering that current levels of POPs in women can also impact future generations, informative guidelines related to dietary patterns and exposure history are needed for women of reproductive age.
Additionally, occupational cohorts of highly exposed women worldwide, such as women working in manufacturing plants and female pesticide applicators are required to gather more information on population susceptibility and disease pathology. Furthermore, studies focusing on gender- and sex- environmental interactions are required to better address environmental exposures relevant to women’s health.
Only a handful of studies have been published to date in the context of health disorders associated with chronic and low-dose exposure to POPs in women. This apparent gap in knowledge necessitates investigations for such disorders employing epidemiologic human studies and animal studies to accurately address such health effects in women and why these effects may be different in men.
Assessing sex-based differences with a focus on women’s health in toxicant exposure studies is of paramount value in environmental and public health as this will allow researchers to better identify and ascertain affected or vulnerable populations.
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