Are Household Chemicals Linked to Arthritis

One of the causes of arthritis and osteoarthritis may be household chemicals

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Author: Christin Sander, Health Writer

There are many chemicals present in the household products that most of us use everyday. Many known carcinogens are found in commercial cleaning supplies and air fresheners, products most people consider safe. Furniture, carpets, wall coverings and other household items expose us daily to many toxins that cause inflammatory diseases like asthma and allergies. Other household chemicals act as endocrine disruptors and have been linked definitively to increased breast cancer risk. Now, new research is suggesting a link between household chemicals and arthritis

A study conducted by researchers from Yale University, Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital, published in the Environmental Health Perspectives journal, links one particular type of chemical compound, perfluorochemicals (PFCs), with increased risk of osteoarthritis, a degenerative form of arthritis caused by inflammation and the breakdown over time of cartilage in the joints.  

PFCs are common chemical compounds found in more than 200 household products. Increased exposure to two common PFCs, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS), pose an increased risk of osteoarthritis, especially in women.  PFCs are found in makeup, food containers, non-stick cookware, waterproofing materials on certain fabrics, personal care items and stain resistant products. 

Researchers used six years worth of data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey to examine the connection between arthritis risk and PFCs. Researchers found that the 25% of women with highest exposure were twice as likely to have osteoarthritis than the bottom 25%. The same correlation was not found in men.

Researchers are not positive why women are more affected by these chemicals than men, but they theorize it is due to their hormone disrupting effects. Inflammation and cartilage repair issues are associated with hormonal imbalances and also with osteoarthritis. 

PFCs have become persistent environmental contaminators and human health hazards. Although efforts are in place now to scale back on the use of these chemicals, the long-term damage posed continues to be an issue. These chemicals do not break down in the human body or in the environment for many years. Even if all sources were eliminated today, the effects would still be present for many more years to come. 

Fortunately, there are natural remedies that can help in the treatment and prevention of arthritis. Glucosamine, a natural substance, is widely used for its ability to decrease pain and inflammation of the joints while increasing range of motion. Herbs like Devil's claw naturally support joint health. Homeopathic remedies are a drug-free way to reduce joint pain and stiffness, relieve inflammation, fight joint fatigue and improve flexibility.  

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