Common Chemical Linked to a Slew of Health Problems

The FDA says chemical bisphenol A is safe, but the latest studies suggest otherwise.

September 23, 2008

RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—A new study appearing in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that higher levels of the chemical bisphenol A (BPA) in people’s urine were associated with cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and liver problems. People with the highest BPA levels were twice as likely to suffer from diabetes or cardiovascular problems than those with lower levels.

THE DETAILS: Found in those hard-plastic water bottles we all carry, BPA is also used in the lining of some soda, food, and baby-formula cans. The hormonelike chemical has been linked to genital abnormalities, early puberty, cancer, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and fertility problems in hundreds of animal studies. This latest study examined data previously collected from 1,455 adults between 18 and 74 years old.


More news about BPA:
Finally! FDA Considers BPA Plastic in Your Food a Health Risk.
New Research Finds BPA in Plastic, Sand, Water—and in All of Us.
"BPA-Free" Products May Still Contain BPA
Avoid the Rubber Duck of Death

The study comes on the heels of a report from the National Institutes of Health’s National Toxicology Program (NTP), which warns that BPA is a cause for “some concern” due to possible effects on the behavior, brain, and prostate gland of children, babies, and fetuses.Around the same time, Yale University researchers released other discomforting findings: BPA levels dubbed “safe” for humans by the Environmental Protection Agency caused brain-function trouble and mood disorders in monkeys. “Given the similarity of monkeys to humans, it raises very clear concerns for human development,” says Phil Landrigan, MD, Ethel Wise Professor and Chair of the Department of Community and Preventive Medicine at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine. The Food and Drug Administration continues to call the chemical safe, citing chemical-industry studies, despite the findings of its fellow government agency, NTP.

WHAT IT MEANS: While researchers and government agencies debate the safety of BPA, you’re unknowingly playing the role of guinea pig. But if you’re concerned, you can take a proactive approach (like Canada; our neighbors to the north banned BPA-containing baby bottles in April 2008).

To keep the possibly toxic ingredient out of your diet:

• Search for unlucky 7. Avoid “#7” plastic food or beverage containers (check for the numbered triangle on the bottom of the container). Safer plastics for storing your consumables are numbers 2, 4, and 5. Better yet, go for ceramic, stainless steel, or glass.

• Look askance at cans. Favor fresh, frozen or shelf-stable boxed or pouched food over canned food (at least until food makers stop lining their cans with BPA). If you can’t completely avoid cans, be aware that BPA is prone to leach into acidic foods like tomatoes or pasta sauces. BPA is fat-soluble, too, so if you eat canned tuna, make sure it’s packed in water, not oil.

• Keep plastic cool. Avoid heating any plastic container, since this promotes leaching. “It’s probably wise never to heat or microwave food in any kind of plastic,” Landrigan says. “Most plastics contain one additive or another, and none are likely to benefit human health.” If you tote your water in a metal bottle, check with the manufacturer to see what the lining’s made out of—some could contain BPA.

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