By Dr. Mercola
A new study indicates bisphenol-A (BPA) – a chemical already found to be an endocrine disrupter linked to cancer and reproductive and fetal development problems – may be contributing to narrowed arteries.
Unfortunately, unequivocal proof of the chemical's dangers to the arteries will be difficult to obtain because experiments on humans are not feasible, but the study's authors said the growing body of evidence is impressive enough to add BPA exposure to the known risk factors for heart disease.
BPA Linked to Narrowed Arteries
Coronary, carotid and aorticartery stenosis – specific examples of a condition generally known as narrowed arteries – can block blood flow in your arteries, with serious if not lethal health consequences. The narrower your arteries become, the more blood flow gets blocked, which can ultimately lead to not only symptoms of chest pain and tightness but also heart attack and stroke.
In the latest study, researchers looked at levels of urinary BPA levels and artery narrowing in close to 600 people, and found that those with higher urinary BPA levels were more likely to have an increased risk for severe narrowing of the arteries.1 The same research team has conducted three other studies that have also shown an association between BPA and heart risks, including:
- A 2008 study that found higher BPA concentrations were associated with heart2
- A 2010 study that found higher BPA exposure was consistently associated with heart disease in the general U.S. adult population;3 in fact, U.S. adults with the highest levels of BPA in their urine were more than twice as likely to develop coronary heart disease than those with the lowest levels
- A 2012 study that found for each 4.56 ng/mL increase in BPA concentration, there was a 13 percent greater risk of heart disease4
BPA is Found in Nearly Everyone… and Heart Disease is the Leading Cause of Death in the U.S.
While these studies are not proof that BPA causes heart disease, they certainly raise serious questions about why the chemical is still being so widely used across the globe.
BPA is so pervasive that scientists have found that 95 percent of people tested have potentially dangerous levels of BPA in their bodies… and heart disease continues to be the leading cause of death in the United States. BPA is clearly not the only factor involved in heart disease, but given its widespread use – and the fact that it is even commonly found in the umbilical cords of babies in utero – any negative impact it makes on human health could prove disastrous.
Not to mention, heart disease is not the only problem with BPA.
BPA is an endocrine disrupter, which means it mimics and/or interferes with your body's hormones, subsequently "disrupting" your endocrine system. The glands of your endocrine system and the hormones they release are instrumental in regulating mood, growth and development, tissue function, metabolism, as well as sexual function and reproductive processes.
Some of the greatest concern regarding BPA surrounds early-life, in utero exposure to BPA, which can lead to chromosomal errors in your developing fetus, causing spontaneous miscarriages and genetic damage.
But evidence is also very strong indicating these chemicals are influencing adults and children alike, and leading to decreased sperm quality, early puberty, premature mammary gland development, disrupted reproductive cycles and ovarian dysfunction, cancer and heart disease, among numerous other health problems. Research has even found that "higher BPA exposure is associated with general and central obesity in the general adult population of the United States,"5 while another study found that BPA is associated not only with generalized and abdominal obesity, but also with insulin resistance, which is an underlying factor in many chronic diseases.6
FDA Not Convinced of BPA's Dangers
Despite the concerning research pouring in, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) states that they are aware studies have found BPA is a hazard to people, but says they have "carefully assessed these studies and finds no convincing evidence to support that belief."7
Unfortunately, although the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) filed a petition with the FDA calling for the agency to prohibit the use of BPA in products manufactured in the United States, earlier this year the FDA announced that it would be denying NRDC's petition, noting that it would "make any necessary changes to BPA's status based on the science."
In September 2010, Canada declared BPA a toxic substance, but to date no other country has followed suit, although BPA has been banned in baby bottles in Canada, Europe and the United States. Many U.S. companies have voluntarily removed the chemical from their products in response to consumer demand, but it is still widely used. Thanks to the FDA's refusal to ban BPA from U.S. food packaging, the chemical will continue to experience steady growth in 2012, with an estimated 4.7 million tons set for production this year.
This, in turn, will earn BPA manufacturers a handsome profit of $8 billion.8
Plastics to Canned Goods: How are You Being Exposed to BPA?
You're probably aware that BPA is often found in plastic food containers and bottles, but plastic is not the only route of exposure. Canned goods, which often have a lining that contains BPA, may in fact be an even greater contributor. In one study, eating canned soup for five days increased study participants' urinary concentrations of BPA by more than 1,000% compared to eating freshly made soup.9
The researchers believe canned goods may be an even greater source of exposure to BPA than plastics. So watch out for canned tomatoes and other canned vegetables, canned soups and canned beverages, like soda or juice.
Other often-overlooked routes of exposure include:
- Receipts: A study in Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry found that of 13 thermal printing papers (the type often used for receipts) analyzed, 11 contained BPA.10 Holding the paper for just 5 seconds was enough to transfer BPA onto a person's skin, and the amount of BPA transferred increased by about 10 times if the fingers were wet or greasy.
- Currency: In a study published in Environmental Science and Technology, researchers analyzed paper currencies from 21 countries for the presence of BPA, and the chemical was detected in every sample.11 They also measured the transfer of BPA from thermal receipt paper to currency by placing the two together in a wallet for 24 hours. This dramatically increased the concentrations of BPA on the money, which again suggests that receipts are highly contaminated.
So in order to really reduce your BPA exposure, you need to watch out for:
- Canned foods and soda cans
- All BPA-containing plastics and food packaging
- Certain tooth sealants
- Certain BPA-free plastics (which can contain similar endocrine-disrupting chemicals)
- Receipts and currency (seek to limit or avoid carrying receipts in your wallet or purse, as it appears the chemical is transferring onto other surfaces it touches. It would also be wise to wash your hands after handling receipts and currency, and avoid handling them particularly if you've just put on lotion or have any other greasy substance on your hands, as this may increase your exposure)