By Dr. Mercola
If you have high levels of the chemical bisphenol-A (BPA) in your urine, you may be at an increased risk of heart disease, according to new data from a long-running British health survey.
People who developed heart disease also tended to have higher urinary concentrations of BPA, a somber finding that, while not proof that BPA causes heart disease, raises serious questions about why the chemical is still being so widely used across the globe.
Does BPA Exposure Cause Heart Disease?
Much of the research on BPA -- the ubiquitous toxic chemical used in plastics, canned goods, dental sealants, paper money and more -- has involved animals, leading skeptics (usually those in the chemical industry) to say the effects may not necessarily be the same in humans.
Well this latest study involved humans, and the results still indicated that exposure to BPA may be correlated with an increased risk of heart disease.
Researchers noted the findings mirrored those found in other large health surveys:
"Associations between higher BPA exposure (reflected in higher urinary concentrations) and incident CAD [coronary artery disease] … over ten years of follow-up showed similar trends to previously reported cross-sectional findings in the more highly exposed NHANES respondents."
In the NHANES study, published in 2010, U.S. adults with the highest levels of BPA in their urine were more than twice as likely to develop coronary heart disease as those with the lowest levels.i Those researchers noted:
"Higher BPA exposure, reflected in higher urinary concentrations of BPA, is consistently associated with reported heart disease in the general adult population of the USA."
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.
BPA Also Linked to Obesity, Insulin Resistance, Reproductive Problems …
BPA is an endocrine disrupter, which means it mimics or interferes with your body's hormones and "disrupts" 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 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 showing these chemicals are influencing adults and children, too, and leading to decreased sperm quality, early puberty, stimulation of mammary gland development, disrupted reproductive cycles and ovarian dysfunction, cancer and heart disease, among numerous other health problems.
For instance, research has found that "higher BPA exposure is associated with general and central obesity in the general adult population of the United States,"ii 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.iii
Plastics are NOT the Only Route of Exposure to BPA …
Many people have stopped carrying plastic water bottles and using plastic utensils and food containers in order to avoid BPA. As public knowledge of BPA in plastics has grown, a slew of BPA-free plastics have also hit the market, making it easier to choose products that do not contain this toxin.
However, wise as it may be to limit your use of plastic products, this will not be enough to protect you from BPA's dangerous effects. BPA is found in the lining of nearly all canned foods and beverages, and it turns out this source of exposure could be increasing your BPA levels alarmingly. 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.iv
The researchers believe canned goods may be an even more concerning source of exposure to BPA than plastics, and if the above finding that increased urinary levels of BPA are linked to heart disease are confirmed, it's logical to assume that eating canned goods could increase your risk of heart disease significantly because of the exposure to BPA!
As one of the world's highest production volume chemicals, BPA is incredibly common in food and drinks packaging, as well as in other places you probably wouldn't expect, like 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.v 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.
Handling paper currency is another likely route of exposure, as 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.vi 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.
Is it Possible to Avoid Having Your Health Damaged by BPA?
BPA is all around us, that's true, but steps are slowly being made to phase out its use. BPA has been banned in baby bottles in Europe and the United States, for instance, and in response to consumer demand, some companies are also following suit.
It's important to make an effort to support the companies that have already removed BPA from their products, or those that offer products that never contained it (such as baby toys made from natural fabrics instead of plastic). If enough people refuse to buy BPA-containing goods, companies will have no choice but to get this toxin out of their products.
For information on companies that are making efforts to explore BPA-free packaging or have already begun phasing BPA out of their products altogether, see the report Seeking Safer Packaging: Ranking Packaged Food Companies on BPA by the environmentally oriented investment firm Green Century and As You Sow, a non-profit working toward increasing corporate social responsibility. Of course, it's also important to boycott the common sources of BPA that are still in production, such as:
- Canned foods and soda cans
- All BPA-containing plastics
- Certain tooth sealants
- Certain BPA-free plastics (which can contain similar endocrine-disrupting chemicals)
- Receipts and currency (while you can't "boycott" these, 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 lotion or have any other greasy substance on your hands, as this may increase your exposure)
One final tip: certain "friendly bacteria" have the ability to break down BPA, as well as reduce your intestinal absorption of it.vii So one way to help protect yourself from the adverse effects of inevitable BPA exposure is by eating traditionally fermented foods, such as raw grass-fed organic kefir, organic fermented veggies, like sauerkraut or Kimchi, or taking a high-quality probiotic supplement.
- i PLoS One. 2010 Jan 13;5(1):e8673.
- ii Environmental Research 2011 Aug;111(6):825-30.
- iii The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. 2012 Feb;97(2):E223-7.
- iv JAMA. 2011 Nov 23;306(20):2218-20.
- v Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry Volume 398, Number 1, 571-576
- vi Environmental Science and Technology 2011 Aug 15;45(16):6761-8.
- vii Bioscience, Biotechnology and Biochemistry 2008 Jun;72(6):1409-15.