Sept. 16, 2008 -- For the first time, the controversial plastic chemical
bisphenol A has been linked to serious health problems -- heart disease and diabetes -- in people.
Bisphenol A, also called BPA, is used in polycarbonate plastic -- hard
plastic used in products including some baby bottles and refillable water bottles -- and in
epoxy resins, which line some canned goods and are also in dental composites
and sealants. Bisphenol A isn't found in softer plastics, such as
single-serving water bottles.
Get the Facts
From the liners in canned foods to some plastic water and baby bottles, the
chemical bisphenol A is found in many everyday products. But is it safe or not?
WebMD's comprehensive coverage of this issue can help you sort out the
A new study links high urinary levels of bisphenol A to a history of heart
disease or diabetes, and to abnormally high concentrations of liver
The study doesn't prove that bisphenol A caused those problems. But the
findings are "disturbing," says David Schardt, MS, senior nutritionist
of the Center for Science in the Public Interest. The plastics industry, on the
other hand, stands by bisphenol A's
The findings, published in The Journal of the American Medical
presented today at an FDA public hearing on bisphenol A. Here's what you
need to know about the new bisphenol A study.
Bisphenol A Study Findings
Most bisphenol A studies have been done in lab tests on rodents. The new
study is all about humans.
The researchers checked government data on heart disease, diabetes, and
bisphenol A in 1,455 U.S. adults aged 18-74.
As part of a national health study done in 2003-2004, participants provided
urine samples and were asked if they had ever been diagnosed with
cardiovascular disease -- heart attack, coronary heart disease, or chest pain (angina) -- or diabetes.
People with the highest urinary levels of bisphenol A were more than twice
as likely to report ever being diagnosed with cardiovascular disease or
diabetes, compared to people with the lowest urinary levels of bisphenol A.
High urinary levels of bisphenol A were also linked to abnormal concentrations
of liver enzymes.
To put the heart disease and diabetes findings in perspective, those
conditions were relatively rare: 79 people reported a history of heart disease
and 136 reported a history of diabetes.
The study didn't directly test bisphenol A to see if caused health problems,
so it doesn't prove that bisphenol A was to blame.
Still, the results held regardless of factors including age, sex, race, smoking, and BMI (body mass index). But the researchers didn't adjust
for all possible influences, including family history of heart disease or
David Melzer, MB, PHD, worked on the new bisphenol A study. He's a professor
of epidemiology and public health at Peninsula Medical School at England's
University of Exeter.
People with high urinary levels of bisphenol A probably weren't exposed to
extreme levels of bisphenol A, according to Melzer.
"It looks as if what people were exposed to was way lower than what is
considered the safe level at the moment," Melzer tells WebMD. But he adds
that it's not clear where their bisphenol A came from.