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BPA May Be Linked to Heart Disease Risk

Study Shows Higher Levels of Chemical Mean Higher Risk of Heart Disease

BPA: Possible Health Effects

BPA acts like estrogen in the body, and early research into human effects focused on this activity. But recent reports have suggested that even low doses of the chemical may, over time, damage the liver, disrupt the function of insulin-making cells in the pancreas, disrupt thyroid hormones, and promote obesity.

"Much of this debate has been hindered up till now by a lack of epidemiological data of sufficient statistical power to detect low dose effects," Melzer collaborator Tamara S. Galloway, PhD, tells WebMD via email. "That's why there has been so much interest in our current research on human health effects."

Galloway says there's a need to learn more about what causes the health risks they identified -- particularly whether they are caused by BPA itself or by something else linked to BPA exposure.

"The risks associated with exposure to BPA may be small, but they are relevant to very large numbers of people," she says. "This information is important since it provides a great opportunity for intervention to reduce the risks."

The FDA is conducting a safety assessment of BPA. That assessment, scheduled for release late last year, is still pending.

The U.S. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences says there is some concern about BPA safety for fetuses, infants, and children but negligible concern over the chemical's reproductive toxicity for adults.

The American Chemistry Council, a group representing the chemical industry, has in the past defended the safety of BPA. In a written statement provided to WebMD, Steven G. Hentges, PhD, of the ACC's Polycarbonate/BPA Global Group, says the Metzer study does not prove a link between BPA and heart disease.

"Studies of this type are very limited in what they tell us about potential impacts on human health. While they can provide helpful information on where to focus future research, by themselves they cannot and should not be used to demonstrate that a particular chemical can cause a particular effect," Hentges says in a news release. "The study itself does not establish a cause-and-effect relationship between BPA exposure and heart disease."

But Gina Solomon, MD, senior scientist at the environmental group National Resources Defense Council, says the study is a missing piece that helps to solve the BPA puzzle.

"Already we know that BPA is associated with diabetes and metabolic disturbances, so it is not surprising this carries out to heart disease," Solomon tells WebMD. "These results make sense and really increase our level of concern that BPA is a public health threat."

Solomon also sees a silver lining in the finding that BPA levels dropped by nearly a third from 2003-2004 to 2005-2006.

"This is showing that the voluntary actions taken by manufacturers to remove BPA from their products may be having an effect," she says. "But even the lower levels found in this study are still linked to health effects, so more action needs to occur to protect the public."





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