Women's Health Matters

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Environmental Health

Women are affected by environmentally linked illnesses far more than men are. Eighty to ninety percent of those afflicted with environmental sensitivities, chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis and fibromyalgia, also pegged as “21st century illnesses,” are women.

The causes of these conditions are unknown. However, researchers suspect that there are a number of factors at work.

One of the stressors commonly linked with these conditions is our exposure to a growing number of toxic chemicals. Tens of thousands of chemicals have been released into the North American ecosystem since the Second World War. Our exposure to pollutants – in our air, soil, consumer products, food and water – have been linked with cancer, and damage to our reproductive, respiratory and neurological systems, and may disrupt the normal development of children. An overload of other stressors, common in our fast-paced world, including a lack of sleep, a lack of physical activity, poor nutrition or emotional stress, can “tip the scales,” resulting in exhaustion and illness.

Environmental illnesses are sometimes referred to as “invisible illnesses,” because people who suffer from these conditions often look well. Unfortunately, looks can be deceiving. Many people with these conditions find their lives profoundly affected by crushing fatigue, pain all over and “brain fog,” as well as myriad other symptoms, from headaches to a rapid heartbeat.

Learn more:

Why do environmental illnesses affect women more than men? | Environmentally linked illnesses |
Healthy environments | Environmental sensitivities | Chronic Fatigue Syndrome | Fibromyalgia |
Environmental news | Glossary

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  • A publication of:
  • Women's College Hospital