Women exposed to low levels of lead are more likely to enter menopause early, according to a recent study published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives. The study involved 401 women from Boston and the surrounding area. Those women with the highest level of lead in their shinbone (lead is known to accumulate in bone) were five times more likely to enter menopause before age 45 when compared to women with the lowest levels, say Harvard researchers.

“Given the relation between earlier menopause and many subsequent health problems, these results suggest a pathway by which lead may contribute to the burden of chronic disease in older women.” They found that the average age of menopause for women with the highest levels was 1.21 years younger than those with lowest levels. Most interesting was the fact that the lead levels were not off-the-chart high. They were comparable to lead levels measured in older U.S. women, which shows us that even low-level lead exposure is a risk.

Although maximum acceptable lead levels in food and water have lowered over the years, many researchers question whether they should be lowered further. I have blogged on the health hazards of lead many times because I know that it can have major health consequences. Lead is a heavy metal that, once it gets inside the body, can be difficult to remove. It settles in tissues and bones, and can remain there for years and years. Minimizing your exposure to lead should be a priority.