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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 continued...

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.

"The FDA says there has to be a reasonable certainty of safety in order to use these products. I look at the entire literature and I say there is a very reasonable certainty of harm," says vom Saal.

An FDA spokesperson wasn't immediately available to comment on that. The FDA recently issued a draft report on the safety of bisphenol A in food contact items (food and drink packaging). That draft report deemed bisphenol A food and drink containers safe for typical use. European regulators recently took a similar stance.

But another government agency, the National Toxicology Program, doesn't rule out all risk from bisphenol A. In a separate report the NTP notes "some concern" for effects on the brain, prostate gland, and on behavior in fetuses, infants, and children.

Industry Responds

WebMD contacted the American Chemistry Council (a trade group for the plastics industry) and the North American Metal Packaging Alliance (a trade group for the canned goods industry) for their comments on the study.

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