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Plastic Chemical Tied to Heart Disease and Diabetes

"There are real problems with BPA use," Taylor said. "BPA is an estrogen-like endocrine disruptor. Clearly, from the animal data, there is reason to believe the BPA is hazardous to the fetus if taken during pregnancy. I think it's worth being cautious and at least trying to keep women who are pregnant away from BPA," he said. "With adult exposure, it is less certain that there is any adverse effect."

Dr. David O. Carpenter, director of the Institute for Health and the Environment at the University at Albany in New York, noted that he has shown that these very same diseases are associated with PCBs, dioxins and chlorinated pesticides.

"I have a strong suspicion that BPA is doing exactly the same thing," he said. "I have been arguing that BPA should be banned for a long time just on the basis of its effect on endocrine systems. The industry reports that argue that it has no adverse effects are simply wrong," he said.

There is nobody who is not exposed to BPA, Carpenter added. "The problem in our society is that we are all exposed to this mixture of chemicals, and which ones are responsible for disease is difficult to determine. This is really an important new observation," he said.

The American Chemistry Council thinks the link between BPA and heart disease and diabetes is tenuous. "While scientific study continues, the public should be reassured by the FDA's own recent review of bisphenol A," said Tiffany Harrington, the council's director of public affairs.

BPA has been the subject of extensive scientific testing and government reviews worldwide, Harrington said. "These reviews have consistently concluded that human exposure levels to BPA are low and within the safe limits set by government authorities," she said.

"While properly designed and executed statistical studies on this and other compounds can bring valuable new insights with respect to human health, sometimes they do not, and sometimes they merely claim false associations that add little to and even confuse the body of science," Harrington added.

Another expert, Dr. Rick Stahlhut, from the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York, agreed this study does not provide a causal link between BPA and heart disease and diabetes, but it's the first step toward discovering such a link. "The findings are intriguing, but they have to be validated," Stahlhut said.

Stahlhut said he expects the controversy to continue. "It's just like every other environmental exposure problem. We are always two decades behind. Ten to 20 years after the chemical is produced, suspicions start to rise. By then, it's a multi-billion-dollar industry, and now there are forces whose job it is to keep it going -- and that is what is happening now," he said.

Until all the facts are known about BPA, Stahlhut recommends not exposing yourself to things you do not need. Don't take it for granted that because some "smiling guy on TV" says it's OK, it is, he said.

More information

For about Bisphenol A, visit the Environment California.

SOURCES: Hugh S. Taylor, M.D., associate professor, department of obstetrics, gynecology & reproductive sciences, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Conn.; Rick Stahlhut, M.D., University of Rochester Medical Center, New York; Tiffany Harrington, director, public affairs, American Chemistry Council, Arlington, Va.; David O. Carpenter, M.D., director, Institute for Health and the Environment, University at Albany, N.Y.; Sept. 17, 2008,Journal of the American Medical Association; Sept. 16, 2008, statement, Consumer Federation of America;Associated Press

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