By Julie Burger
Bisphenol A (BPA) is a chemical that is used in most plastic food and beverage containers. BPA is also found in dental sealants, the resin lining of cans, carbonless paper (often used for receipts), pizza boxes, and other common household products. A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) looked at possible associations between BPA levels in adults and their health status. The study concludes that there is a significant link between BPA and diabetes, cardiovascular disease (including coronary heart disease and heart attacks), and liver-enzyme abnormalities. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), as of 2007 (the most recent data available), nearly 24 million children and adults, approximately 8% of the population, have diabetes. Diabetes contributed to 233,619 deaths in 2005 alone and in 2006 was ranked as the seventh deadliest disease in the United States. Diabetes related deaths have increased by 45% since 1987. Diabetes is a serious, growing health concern.
Previous studies have also demonstrated adverse effects of BPA on the brain, reproductive system, and metabolic processes (including insulin resistance). These studies tested the effect of BPA on animals using BPA levels that were less than what federal agencies have determined is an acceptable daily intake dose.
The Canadian Government is already beginning to take precautions to protect its citizens by prohibiting the sale of baby bottles containing BPA and restricting the amount of BPA released into the environment. The FDA currently maintains that there is no immediate health risk presented by the presence of BPA in food containers, but Norris Alderson, the Associate Commissioner for Science of the FDA stated in a letter that the FDA plans to conduct "studies in its laboratories using representative dose ranges and multiple animal models."
Researchers argue that the time to act is now. In an article entitled "Bisphenol A and Risk of Metabolic Disorders," leading scientists argue that the FDA's declaration that BPA is "safe" rings of a history of "manufactured doubt," which was "first developed by the lead, vinyl, and tobacco industries to challenge the reliability of findings published by independent scientists."
As noted by the FDA, more studies are needed to determine the actual effect of long-term, low-level exposure to BPA and to confirm the findings reported in JAMA. In the meantime, consumers can make the decision to use alternatives to BPA. Reducing reliance on BPA materials could reduce exposure to BPA, potentially improve the health of the consumers, and promote "green chemistry." Many plastics, for example, are now already being manufactured and marketed as "BPA-free." Glass, inherently BPA free, is much more re-usable than plastic. Cans, except for those containing highly acidic vegetables, can be utilized for food storage without using BPA. With diabetes and heart disease rates soaring, we should do whatever we can to reduce the risk of developing these diseases.