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BPA Linked to Diabetes, Heart Disease, and Liver Abnormalities

Sep 17, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP A recent study released in federal hearings this week linked Bisphenol A (BPA) to cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and liver-enzyme abnormalities in adults.

Researchers said the study provides the first scientific evidence that adults with higher BPA levels were likelier to develop these  diseases.  The study also reinforces the federal National Toxicology Program recent report  that BPA may affect the development of the brains and prostate glands of fetuses and young children.

BPA is used extensively in food and drink containers and baby bottles; is found in drinking water, dental sealants, and household dust; and can be found in the systems of nearly every American.  In recent months, pressure has been mounting for government and corporate action, partly because BPA is so ubiquitous it is nearly impossible to avoid.  Some governmental lawmakers have worked to ban BPA from children's products and some companies, such as Wal-Mart, Toys R Us, and Naglene, are either not producing or selling BPA products or banning its use in its products.

And, yet, despite continuing and mounting evidence that BPA poses a danger to humans, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)—the agency charged with protecting Americans from such dangers—continues to maintain and defend BPA’s safety.  "Right now, our tentative conclusion is that it's safe, so we're not recommending any change in habits," said Laura Tarantino, head of the FDA's office of food additive safety.  Instead of working toward a ban, the FDA is saying yet more research is needed.  Unfortunately, the FDA only seems to be listening to reports developed by industry and refuses to heed warnings issued by nonindustry-connected scientists.

In this week’s study, Dr. David Melzer and colleagues from the Peninsula Medical School in Exeter, England, divided a 1,455 Americans aged 18-74 into quarters based on BPA concentrations in their urine; data was derived from a 2003-04 survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  The team discovered those with the highest concentrations exhibited a nearly three-fold chance of developing cardiovascular disease, a 2.4 times higher risk of developing diabetes, and clinically abnormal concentrations of three liver enzymes versus those in the lowest quartile.  Melzer said the new finding on heart disease was unexpected.

Frederick vom Saal, a professor of biology at University of Missouri at Columbia, said the findings were "absolutely no surprise."  vom Saal served on a scientific consensus panel of 38 experts that recently reviewed 700 BPA studies and concluded it had a high probability of causing harm.  Dr. Anila Jacob, senior scientist for the Environmental Working Group, a Washington-based research and public health watchdog organization, said the study suggested BPA might play a more significant part in chronic diseases than had been previously thought.   Some scientists are urging the FDA to declare the chemical toxic and ban it from products that come into contact with food and drinks.

"We have always been concerned about infants and children because we know they have higher exposures compared to adults and we also know they are more vulnerable because their brains are developing and their organ systems are maturing," Jacob said. "But we believe there is reason for concern for everyone."

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