New Research Raises Concerns of Toxic Chemicals in Common Plastics

16 09 2008


WASHINGTON — A chemical commonly used in plastic food and drink containers was associated with cardiovascular disease and diabetes, according to the first large-scale study in humans, released Tuesday.

The chemical, bisphenol-A or BPA, is used to make plastic hard and appears in products such as baby bottles, CDs and sunglasses. It is also used in resins that coat the inside of bottle tops and metal cans.

The study’s release, which will appear in this week’s Journal of the American Medical Association, coincides with a Food and Drug Administration panel meeting Tuesday on the subject.

The FDA, in a draft assessment of BPA, has concluded BPA is safe at current levels found in food and beverage containers. The FDA’s assessment relied primarily on industry data, and critics have charged the agency with ignoring other data, including a report released earlier this month by a unit of the National Institutes of Health, that raised safety questions.

The report by the National Toxicology Program said BPA was of “some concern for effects on the brain, behavior, and prostate gland in fetuses, infants, and children at current human exposures.” Frank Torti, FDA’s chief scientist, has said the agency would consider the NIH report before making any decisions on BPA.

The FDA will ask a panel of outside medical experts to review its draft assessment and comment on whether it is scientifically sound. The bulk of BPA studies have been conducted in animals, and many have raised safety concerns.

New research, led by David Melzer of Peninsula Medical School in the U.K., suggests the chemical is linked to health problems in humans, though additional studies would be needed to confirm such a link. Mr. Melzer and his colleagues looked at typical levels of BPA exposure in a large U.S. population. They used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey that were conducted in 2003 and 2004. The survey is conducted on a routine basis by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to collect information on the health and nutrition of the U.S. population.

Specifically, researchers looked at BPA levels in the urine of 1,455 adults aged 18 to 74, which researchers said was the best way to measure BPA exposure. Researchers then looked at whether participants had any common problems, such as asthma, arthritis, cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, liver disease and thyroid disease. They also analyzed blood samples to look at cholesterol levels and other markers that can indicate a possible health problem.

Overall, researchers found that average BPA concentrations were higher in those who had cardiovascular disease or diabetes, but not other health problems such as asthma or cancer. People with higher BPA concentrations in their urine were also more likely to have elevated levels of certain liver enzymes.

Read on here.




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