Perimenarchal air pollution exposure and menstrual disorders

Hum Reprod. 2018 Mar 1;33(3):512-519. doi: 10.1093/humrep/dey005.


Study question: What is the association between perimenarchal exposure to total suspended particulate (TSP) in air, menstrual irregularity phenotypes and time to menstrual cycle regularity?

Summary answer: Exposures to TSP during high school are associated with slightly increased odds of menstrual irregularity and longer time to regularity in high school and early adulthood.

What is known already: The menstrual cycle is responsive to hormonal regulation. Particulate matter air pollution has demonstrated hormonal activity. However, it is not known if air pollution is associated with menstrual cycle regularity.

Study design, size, duration: Cross sectional study of 34 832 of the original 116 430 women (29.91%) enrolled in 1989 from the Nurses' Health Study II (NHSII). The follow-up rate for this analytic sample was 97.76% at the 1991 survey.

Participants/materials, setting, methods: Annual averages of TSP were available for each year of high school attendance. We created three case definitions including high school menstrual irregularity and androgen excess. The time to menstrual cycle regularity was reported by participants as <1 year, 1-2 years, 3-4 years, 5 years or longer, or never on the baseline questionnaire. Odds ratios and 95% confidence intervals (CI) were calculated for 45 μg/m3 increases in TSP exposure, adjusted for risk factors for menstrual irregularity.

Main results and the role of chance: In multivariable adjusted models, we observed that for every 45 μg/m3 increase in average high school TSP there was an increased odds (95%CI) of 1.08 (1.03-1.14), 1.08 (1.02-1.15) and 1.10 (0.98-1.25) for moderate, persistent, and persistent with androgen excess irregularity phenotypes, respectively. TSP was also associated with a longer time to cycle regularity, with stronger results among women with older ages at menarche and those living in the Northeast or the West.

Limitations, reasons for caution: The outcomes of menstrual regularity and time to cycle regularity were retrospectively assessed outcomes and may be susceptible to recall bias. There is also the potential for selection bias, as women had to live until 2011 to provide addresses.

Wider implications of the findings: Temporal exposure to air pollution in the adolescent and early adulthood window may be especially important, given its association with phenotypes of menstrual irregularity. The data from this study agrees with existing literature regarding air pollution and reproductive tract diseases.

Study funding/competing interest(s): Shruthi Mahalingaiah: Reproductive Scientist Development Program HD000849, and a research grant from the Boston University Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Stacey Missmer: R01HD57210 from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Center for Environmental Health Sciences Translational Pilot Project Program, R01CA50385 from the National Cancer Institute, Jaime Hart and Francine Laden: 5R01ES017017 from the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences, Jaime Hart: P30 ES00002 from the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences at the National Institute of Health, The Nurses' Health Study II is supported by infrastructure grant UM1CA176726 from the National Cancer Institute, NIH, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services The authors have no conflicts of interest to declare.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Air Pollutants / adverse effects*
  • Air Pollution / adverse effects*
  • Child
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Menarche*
  • Menstruation Disturbances / etiology*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult


  • Air Pollutants