As the Food and Drug Administration meets today to discuss the common chemical Bisphenol-A, used to make many plastics, a new study associates low-level exposure to cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and liver-enzyme abnormalities.
Update: The FDA "defended their assessment that BPA is safe," according to a good overview in the 9/17 USA Today.
No. 7 plastic baby bottles, three- and five-gallon water bottles, certain food containers and other items, including the lining of cans, may contain Bisphenol-A. The chemical, which can mimic the hormone estrogen, has repeatedly been found in the bodies of Americans during "body burden" studies.
While other studies have raised similar concerns, based on animal studies, this new study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, is unique because it studied humans: 1,455 of them, age 18 to 74. The study correlated BPA concentrations in urine to health parameters as recorded in the latest National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.
The risk from exposure is striking, according to the study. Increase one "standard deviation" a statistical measure and the risk of cardiovascular diseases like angina, heart attack and coronary heart disease increases 39%. Those with the highest concentrations of the chemical had three times the odds of showing cardiovascular disease, and 2.5 times the odds of having diabetes, as compared to those with the lowest evidence of exposure.
The researchers themselves called for more follow-up to test their conclusions, but in an editorial accompanying the study, Frederick S. vom Saal of the University of Missouri and John Peterson Myers of Environmental Health Sciences, said the government should try to decrease exposure and develop alternatives to the chemical, which is produced at a rate of 7 billion pounds per year.
"Since worldwide BPA production has now reached approximately 7 billion pounds per year, eliminating direct exposures from its use in food and beverage containers will prove far easier than finding solutions for the massive worldwide contamination by this chemical due its to disposal in landfills and the dumping into aquatic ecosystems of myriad other products containing BPA, which Canada has already declared to be a major environmental contaminant," they write.
While the FDA ponders the meaning of this report, and other research, a sister agency has already declared its concern, even without having considered the latest findings.
The National Toxicology Program, earlier this month, finalized its conclusion that the health risk to reproduction and development posed by Bisphenol-A cannot be ruled out. There is "some concern" (a 3 on a 5-point scale) according to the agency, that Bisphenol-A affects the prostate gland, brain and development of fetuses, infants and children.
This Bill Moyers Journal video offers great background on the issue:
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