Plastic Additive Linked to Increased Risk for Heart Disease, Diabetes
Bisphenol A, a chemical found in plastic products, might lead to increased risk for cardiovascular disease and diabetes, according to the first large study on the effects of BPA on human health, the Wall Street Journal reports.
For the study, published on Wednesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers led by David Melzer of Peninsula Medical School examined data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, conducted by CDC in 2003 and 2004, related to BPA levels in the urine of 1,455 adults ages 18 to 74 (Corbett Dooren, Wall Street Journal, 9/17).
Researchers divided participants into four groups based on their BPA levels (Layton, Washington Post, 9/17). All participants had BPA levels considered safe by FDA.
According to the study, a total of 79 participants had heart attacks, chest pain or other forms of cardiovascular disease, and 136 had diabetes (Alonso-Zaldivar/Tanner, AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 9/16). The study found that participants in the group with the highest BPA levels were almost three times as likely to have cardiovascular disease and 2.4 times as likely to have diabetes as those in the group with the lowest levels (Washington Post, 9/17).
In addition, the study found that participants with higher levels of BPA were more likely than those with lower levels to have high levels of certain liver enzymes.
Participants with higher levels of BPA were not more likely than those with lower levels to have other health problems, such as asthma or cancer, the study found (Wall Street Journal, 9/17).
Peninsula Medical School funded the study (Maugh, Los Angeles Times, 9/17).
The study contradicts a draft report recently released by FDA that said exposure to BPA at current levels does not increase risk for health problems in humans (Wall Street Journal, 9/17).
FDA in large part based the report on the results of two studies funded by the chemical industry.
A report recently released by the National Toxicology Program found "some concern" that exposure to BPA might cause developmental problems in the brains and hormonal systems of children. In addition, more than 100 previous studies have linked BPA exposure to health problems in animals (Washington Post, 9/17).
In an editorial that accompanied the latest study, Frederick vom Saal, a reproductive scientist at the University of Missouri, and John Peterson Myers, chief scientist at Environmental Health Sciences, wrote that the study should prompt FDA to take "aggressive action to limit human and environmental exposures" (Los Angeles Times, 9/17).
However, Steven Hentges of the American Chemistry Council in a statement said, "Due to inherent limitations in study design, this new study cannot support a conclusion that bisphenol A causes any disease," adding, "The weight of scientific evidence continues to support the conclusion of governments worldwide that bisphenol A is not a significant health concern at the trace levels present in some consumer products" (Washington Post, 9/17).
The release of the study coincided with a meeting that FDA held on Tuesday to discuss the safety of BPA (Wall Street Journal, 9/17).
The meeting involved the FDA Science Board Bisphenol A Subcommittee, a panel of six outside experts that the agency recently established to review scientific literature and make recommendations about the safety of BPA (CongressDaily, 9/16). The subcommittee likely will make final recommendations on BPA next month.
During the meeting, vom Saal said, "This is the nail in the coffin," adding, "This is a huge deal" (Washington Post, 9/17). He said, "The FDA is ignoring all of this research," adding, "While it has been doing that, Americans have been at risk" (Szabo, USA Today, 9/17).
According to Melzer, the study did not prove that BPA causes health problems, and additional research is needed to confirm the results.
Laura Tarantino, director of the FDA Office of Food Additive Safety, said the agency would review the latest study but defended the current position of the agency on BPA (Wall Street Journal, 9/17). She said, "Right now, our tentative conclusion is that it's safe, so we're not recommending any change in habits" (Connor, New York Daily News, 9/17).
However, Tarantino added, "We recognize the need to resolve the concerning questions that have been raised" (Alonso-Zaldivar/Tanner, AP/Philadelphia Inquirer, 9/17).
Meanwhile, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) on Tuesday launched an investigation into FDA actions related to BPA and whether the chemical industry inappropriately influenced the position of the agency (Washington Post, 9/17).
In a letter sent to FDA, Grassley asked agency officials to explain their decision to weigh studies of BPA funded by the chemical industry more than those funded by NIH (USA Today, 9/17).
Grassley also asked FDA officials to release all communications between the agency and the American Chemistry Council by Sept. 30 (CongressDaily, 9/16).
CBS' "Early Show" on Tuesday reported on the study. The segment includes comments from CBS medical correspondent Jon LaPook (Rodriguez, "Early Show," CBS, 9/16).
CBS' "Evening News" on Tuesday also reported on the study. The segment includes comments from Tarantino (LaPook, "Evening News," CBS, 9/16).
In addition, NPR's "Day to Day" on Tuesday reported on the study. The segment includes comments from David Schardt, senior nutritionist for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, Melzer and Ken Portier, a statistician with the American Cancer Society (Aubrey, "Day to Day," NPR, 9/16).