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Bisphenol A and Heart Disease : More Bad News
Bisphenol A (BPA) has popped up regularly in the news since 2008, when a number of scientific studies began to question its safety. A compound commonly used to make a host of plastic products including plastic bottles, the inner coatings of canned food and soft drinks, the linings of aluminum drink bottles, dental sealants, and thermal sales receipt paper, BPA is nearly ubiquitous in our daily lives. In fact, urine tests have shown that somewhere between 80 and 90 percent of humans worldwide have evidence of BPA exposure.
In the early days after its discovery, BPA was recognized as an estrogen-like compound, and in the 1930s it was proposed as a form of hormone replacement for menopausal women. It is this similarity to estrogen that has led scientists to speculate that BPA may increase the risk for prostate and breast cancer. But it’s not just adults that are exposed to BPA. Since the plastics made from BPA are virtually shatterproof, it was used in baby bottles for years. Heating the plastic allows the BPA to leech out, potentially harming the reproductive system. There is also some evidence that BPA can influence the developing brain, possibly leading to more aggressive behavior.
Cardiovascular disease is another area of concern. To try to understand more about the way BPA can influence heart disease risk, Dr. David Melzer and associates at the University of Exeter in the U.K. decided to compare urinary levels of BPA with the extent of coronary artery disease in people who underwent cardiac catheterization for suspected heart disease. During this test, dye is injected into the heart arteries to evaluate for blockages. Of the 591 patients studied, those with the most severe blockages also had the highest levels of BPA, even taking into account body weight, diabetes, and other risk factors.
While we don’t fully understand how BPA affects heart arteries, it makes sense to try to avoid it whenever possible. Check the recycle label. Plastics labeled with the number 3 or 7 are likely to contain BPA, although since “7” denotes a catch-all category, it can also include apparently safer plastic-like products made from corn or potatoes. Avoid polycarbonates (sometimes labeled PCA next to the recycling logo). And BPA exposure is another very good reason to avoid canned sodas, most of which are still coated with the stuff.
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