For the first time a study has confirmed that a common plastic chemical used in everyday products by millions worldwide, has a link to human health problems such as heart disease and diabetes.
Bisphenol A or BPA has been a suspected endocrine disruptor since pioneer zoologist, Theo Colburn began following the chemical train in her landmark book, Our Stolen Future (Dutton, 1996; Plume 1997), where she explored the many examples of plasticizers acting as a synthetic form of estrogen that disrupt the normal sexual development among wildlife.
In this new study, British researchers analyzed urine and blood from 1,455 U.S. adults, ages 18 to 74, who represent the general population.
Among those sampled, one-quarter with the highest levels of BPA were more than twice as likely to have heart disease and/or diabetes when compared to the one-quarter at the lowest levels in the group.
The findings are published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).
The American Chemistry Council, a trade group, criticizes the study saying it did not make the link between BPA, heart disease, and diabetes.
"Bisphenol A is one of the world's most widely produced and used chemicals, and one of the problems until now is we don't know what has been happening in the general population," said Tamara Galloway, a University of Exeter researcher who worked on the study tells Reuters.
"The study, while preliminary with regard to these diseases in humans, should spur U.S. regulatory agencies to follow recent action taken by Canadian regulatory agencies, which have declared BPA a 'toxic chemical' requiring aggressive action to limit human and environmental exposures," Frederick vom Saal of the University of Missouri and John Peterson Myers of the nonprofit U.S.- based Environmental Health Sciences, wrote in a commentary accompanying the study.
Tuesday, the FDA will listen to experts testify on the health effects from BPA, which will be considered along with a draft report issued last month that says BPA is safe.
Earlier this month, the federal National Toxicology Program said it had “some concern” about BPA and the developmental toxicity for fetuses, infants, and children.
BPA All Around
BPA is found in the epoxy resin that coats the inside of most food and beverage cans. It is also found in dental fillings. BPA has been cited as a component of plastic baby bottles.
Over 2.2 million tons is produced each year and resides in the majority of people.
80,000 chemicals are registered for use in the U.S. with more than 2,000 new ones introduced every year, all falling under the watch of the National Toxicology Program.
More than six billion pounds of bisphenol are produced in the U.S. each year by Dow Chemical, Bayer AG and others.
How To Avoid It
The National Toxicology Program of Health and Human Services issues the following warnings:
- Do not microwave polycarbonate plastic food containers. They may break down from overuse and release BPA. BPA containing containers have a #7 on the bottom within the recycle symbol, a triangle with arrows.
- Reduce the use of canned foods especially acidic foods such s tomatos that can cause BOPA to leach into the food. Opt instead for soups in the “brick” cardboard containers or safer layers of aluminum and polyethylene plastic (Labeled #2) in the recycle logo.
- Switch to glass, porcelain or stainless steel containers, especially for hot food or liquids.
- Use baby bottles that are BPA free or glass.
What’s Being Done
Canada’s government last April decided to ban BPA in some infant and toddler products.
The European Union has said that BPA in baby bottles cannot harm human health.
California lawmakers are considering enacting statewide restrictions on the chemical in baby products. At least ten other states are also considering bills to restrict bisphenol A.
Wal-Mart and Toys R Us have vowed that their shelves will be free of BPA-containing children’s products in January.
Last June, four families filed a lawsuit over the plastic baby bottles, claiming that five companies didn’t warn consumers they used BPA.
The researchers suggest that BPA may disrupt hormones, although they caution these findings are preliminary and more research needs to be done to establish why the link appears between diabetes and heart disease.
The new findings “are in keeping with what has been found in animal models,” says Iain Lang, a researcher at the University of Exeter in Britain who worked on the study told a news conference.
More than a dozen years ago, researcher Theo Colburn reported countless examples of reproductive disorders among wildlife -- from sterility in bald eagles to small genitalia in male alligators. After tracing the animals' disorders to chemical exposure, Colburn suggested that endocrine disruptors profoundly affect one of the body's main communication networks -- the endocrine system -- by either mimicking natural hormones or blocking their uptake to the body's receptor sites.
Short-circuiting hormones can disturb everything from human development and behavior to reproduction and immunity. And scientists believe even the tiniest hormone variation at certain critical points in fetal development can have a profound effect on a child's future health.
"If this does not close the door on the use of BPA in consumer products, I don't know what will," said Dr. John Spangler, professor of family and community medicine at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, N.C. told ABC News.
Theo Colburn still writes about the BPA controversy on her web site Our Stolen Future, where she publishes the latest studies linking BPA to breast and prostate cancer. #