Bottle chemical BPA linked to heart disease, diabetes

By Susan Wheeler
9/19/2008 4:01:32 PM

WASHINGTON — A new scientific report associates the plastic ingredient bisphenol A (BPA) with an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes and liver-enzyme abnormalities. At the same time, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) continues to affirm the safety of the use of BPA in food packaging, including polycarbonate water bottles.

The scientific report, “Association of Urinary Bisphenol A Concentration With Medical Disorders and Laboratory Abnormalities in Adults,” was published in the latest issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) and published in full online on September 16. It is one of the first comprehensive studies based on humans, not animals, and authored by Iain A. Lang, Ph.D., et al. Its object was to examine associations between urinary BPA concentrations and adult health status. The authors concluded that “higher BPA exposure, reflected in higher urinary concentrations of BPA, may be associated with avoidable morbidity in the community-dwelling adult population.”

Specifically, the authors wrote that human exposure to BPA is likely to exceed the 50 micrograms per kilogram per day reference dose currently recommended by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), noting that exposure is most likely through continuous, multiroute exposure, principally diet. The authors, who made use of the first large-scale and high-quality population-representative data set to become available, wrote that “independent replication and follow-up studies are needed” to confirm their findings that higher BPA concentrations were associated with diagnoses of cardiovascular disease and diabetes, as well as liver-enzyme abnormalities, and “to provide evidence on whether the associations are causal.”

The results of this study, along with findings from other studies, have led some independent scientists to call upon the FDA to follow Canada’s lead and regulate BPA, used by bottle and other container manufacturers to make plastic shatterproof. In an editorial in the same JAMA issue, scientists Frederick S. vom Saal and John Peterson Myers do just that, writing: “The FDA and the European Food Safety Authority have chosen to ignore warnings from expert panels and other government agencies and have continued to declare BPA ‘safe.’ The findings by Lang et al … challenge the safety of BPA.”

Other industry and scientific experts were offered the opportunity to voice an opinion on the safety of BPA in food packaging at a September 16 FDA hearing in which the federal agency defended its position. “A margin of safety exists that is adequate to protect consumers, including infants and children, at the current levels of exposure,” Laura Tarantino, a senior FDA scientist, said during the FDA hearing, according to a September 16 Associated Press article in The New York Times and a September 17 Morning Edition on National Public Radio (NPR).

Tarantino was addressing a panel of FDA advisors that has been asked for a second opinion on the agency’s assessment of BPA. The expert panel will review the matter and is expected to weigh in on it in six weeks, NPR reported.

Meanwhile, consumers are being directed by media on how to recognize what products contain BPA and steps to take to avoid them. In three reports, a September 16 in the Chicago Tribune article, a September 16 ABC News report and a September 18 report in the United Kingdom’s The Sun, consumers are advised that polycarbonate water bottles may contain BPA. The Chicago Tribune column additionally notes that “some water filters that store filtered water in polycarbonate containers” may contain BPA.

To read the JAMA report, click here.

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