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Health & Baby

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Bisphenol A Tied to Health Problems

Study Shows Plastic Chemical Linked to Heart Disease, Diabetes; Industry Says No Proof Bisphenol A Is to Blame

Researcher's Comments

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.

Melzer's team isn't calling for a ban on bisphenol A, and they're not telling people to ditch their canned goods or polycarbonate plastic products. But they do want to see more research done.

Melzer says future research should check the study's findings in other groups of people, track healthy people to see if those with high levels of bisphenol A develop health problems later on, and identify the leading sources of bisphenol A exposure.

"Which are the main products, which types of food, what particular packaging is actually delivering these levels into people?" asks Melzer. "It would be much easier to understand what to do if we knew where it was coming from, especially in those people who seem to have marginally higher levels."

For now, Melzer warns against jumping to conclusions. "Please don't read too much into this first study; it's limited in various ways," he says.

Melzer also notes that a healthy lifestyle -- regardless of bisphenol A -- is still a crucial part of preventing heart disease and diabetes. "Healthy eating and exercise and so on are still very important," says Melzer.

Bisphenol A Critic's View

Fred vom Saal, PhD, is a bisphenol A researcher who co-wrote an editorial published with the study.

"It is important to point out that it is a snapshot study -- one measurement of bisphenol A and in relation to health status," vom Saal tells WebMD. But he says the results show "such a strong relationship" between high urinary bisphenol A levels and health effects.

He explains that bisphenol A acts like estrogen, pushing up insulin levels, which may lead to insulin resistance and diabetes. "That's exactly what it does in animals," says vom Saal, who testified at today's FDA meeting and is critical of the FDA's stance that bisphenol A is safe at typical exposure levels from food and drink.

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