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Bisphenol-A, or BPA, is an industrial chemical used in plastics and canned food linings. It is an organic compound that acts similarly to estrogen when ingested into the body. A growing number of health experts and consumers are becoming concerned about the adverse health effects that can be caused from high-dose or long-term exposure to BPA.
The most recent study regarding BPA has shown a confirmed link to heart disease. Researchers from England reviewed data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys and found that men with the highest levels of BPA exposure, as determined from urinary samples, were 10% more likely to develop heart disease. BPA is thought to suppress a hormone that protects people from having heart attacks, oxidative stress, and damages to the endothelial cells of blood vessels.
French researchers published data recently that links BPA with the functioning ability of the intestines, as this is the first organ to come in contact with the chemical after it is ingested from food and beverage containers. The study was conducted on animals, using a level that was 10 times below a level currently thought to be safe for humans. The mucosal lining of the intestinal wall failed, causing a condition called “leaky gut syndrome.” Damage to the lining can cause failure of the blockage of toxins and bacteria, which can then enter the body and cause damage to tissues and organs.
Another animal study found that chronic exposure to even low-doses of BPA can impair the growth and function of female antral follicles, the egg cell which is involved in ovulation. Because the chemical structure of BPA is similar to estrogen, it binds with receptors in the cells, causing a decrease in other important female hormones, such as progesterone.
Another recent study focused on the hormonal effect on men. The journal Human Reproduction published research on over 200 Chinese men who were exposed to BPA in their workplace. Those men were four times more likely to have erectile dysfunction and seven times more likely to have ejaculation difficulties. The level of chemical exposure in the study was more than 50 times a level that the average American would be exposed to, but the study points out the effect that a hormonal compound can have on the male reproductive system in high doses.
BPA is also linked to diabetes and metabolic syndrome, two conditions caused by a decrease in the body’s ability to effectively use insulin. BPA causes an increase in insulin output from the beta cells of the pancreas. High levels of circulating insulin causes a reduction in the body’s ability to break down fat, which leads to a greater risk of obesity.
A study from the University of Chapel Hill highlighted the dangers of children exposed to BPA from baby bottles and baby food containers. Toddler girls exposed to BPA were considered more aggressive and hyperactive than those with less exposure. Other research in children has shown that BPA is present in the umbilical cords of newborns, suggesting that the mother’s exposure can affect her offspring.
The US. Food and Drug Administration is reviewing the data on BPA and is expected to release an assessment in the coming months. Until then, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) is recommending that consumers reduce their current exposure levels by decreasing the use of certain plastic containers that use BPA and opt for glass, porcelain or stainless steel instead.