Heart disease risk of chemical used in food and drink containers

One of the world's most widely used chemicals, a key constituent of plastic food and drink containers, has been linked for the first time with increased rates of heart disease and diabetes in adults.

Bisphenol A (BPA) is one of the 10 most common chemicals produced worldwide and gives plastic its rigidity, durability and light weight. Researchers now fear that tiny amounts which leach out of plastic containers into food and drink may cause harm to health.

A team of British toxicologists analysed findings from an American survey of 1,455 adults and showed that the 25 per cent with the highest levels of the chemical were more than twice as likely to have heart disease and/or diabetes compared with the 25 per cent with the lowest levels. They also had higher levels of liver enzymes indicative of metabolic abnormalities.

Yesterday, the scientists from the Peninsula Medical School in Exeter and the University of Iowa presented their findings to a panel of the US Food and Drug Administrationwhich is hearing evidence on the risks of BPA.

Ninety per cent of the population were exposed to BPA, which is ubiquitous in products such as CD cases and dental sealants, the researchers said. Vast quantities were buried in landfill sites which could potentially have leached into drinking water and was also present in the air around manufacturing facilities.

Iain Lang, an epidemiologist from Peninsula Medical School and lead author of the study, said: "This is something everyone is exposed to. It is the first ever study in a large human population. But this is a single scientific study and we would not want to leap to conclusions on the basis of it."

Critics said there could be a more "commonsense" explanation for the findings – that people who consumed a lot of canned drinks would increase their risk of heart disease and diabetes from the sugar, incidentally exposing themselves to higher levels of BPA from the can. Younger people showed the highest levels of BPA, lending support to the hypothesis.

Asked if the consumption of sugar in canned drinks could explain the findings, Dr Lang said: "It is possible... [but] we have done all we can to exclude that possibility."

The study is published in The Journal of the American Medical Association, which carries an editorial calling for further regulation of BPA in the wake of the findings. The authors of the editorial have made extensive studies of BPA and have called for curbs on its use in the past. Dr Lang said: "The editorialists are more bullish than us. A single study is not enough to justify a change in policy."

The findings show that those with the highest levels of BPA, measured in their urine, had exposure to about 35 micrograms a day, compared with 20 micrograms a day for those with the lowest exposure. These levels are at least 100 times below the level currently regarded as "safe" in the US and Europe of more than 3,000 micrograms per day.

Professor Richard Sharpe, of the Medical Research Council's Human Reproductive Sciences Unit at the University of Edinburgh, said the study showed an association, not a causal link, between BPA and heart disease and diabetes, and it was too easy to jump to the "obvious scary conclusion". Professor Sharpe added: "There may be an altogether more commonsense (although still scary) explanation... that if you drink lots of sugary canned drinks you will over time increase your risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes (I think we already suspect this) and incidentally you will be exposed to more BPA (from the can lining). Our present understanding, and this study, do not allow us to choose between these two explanations."

A spokeswoman for the Chemical Industries Association said the European Food Safety Authority had reviewed the use of BPA in products in contact with food and drink this year and found it to be safe: "This new study will be subject to the same scrutiny to see if further research is required."

The UK Food Standards Agency said it would "continue to closely monitor scientific reports about the health effects of BPA".

Popular plastic building block

Bisphenol A is a chemical building block, mainly used to make polycarbonate plastic and epoxy resins. It was first created in a laboratory by the German scientist Thomas Zincke in 1905, and is now one of the most extensively tested materials in use today, after becoming increasingly popular throughout the 20th century. Polycarbonate plastic – which has been widely manufactured in the US since 1957 – is light, tough and heat resistant, and is used in many everyday products including CDs, DVDs, electronic equipment and food and drink containers. Epoxy resins are chemically resistant, adhesive and can be easily moulded, and are often used as protective coatings for electronic circuit boards inside electrical equipment, but are also widely used to line metal cans and tins to protect the food or drink stored inside.

News
peopleJonathan Ross has got a left-field suggestion to replace Clarkson
Sport
Lewis Hamilton secured his second straight pole of the season
f1Vettel beats Rosberg into third after thunderstorm delays qualifying
Arts and Entertainment
The teaser trailer has provoked more questions than answers
filmBut what is Bond's 'secret' that Moneypenny is talking about?
News
Johnny Depp is perhaps best known for his role as Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean
peopleBut how did he break it?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Sport
football This was Kane’s night, even if he played just a small part of it
Travel
travel Dreamland Margate, Britain’s oldest amusement park, is set to reopen
News
news
News
Founders James Brown and Tim Southwell with a mock-up of the first ever ‘Loaded’ magazine in 1994
media
News
Threlfall says: 'I am a guardian of the reality keys. I think I drive directors nuts'
people
Voices
voices The group has just unveiled a billion dollar plan to help nurse the British countryside back to health
News
The Westgate, a gay pub in the centre of Gloucester which played host to drag queens, has closed
news
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

    £32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Does earning a 6 figu...

    Recruitment Genius: SEO Executive

    £18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: New Lift Sales Executive - Lift and Elevators

    £35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A challenging opportunity for a...

    Day In a Page

    The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

    The saffron censorship that governs India

    Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
    Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

    How did fandom get so dark?

    Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
    The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
    The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

    Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

    Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
    Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

    Disney's mega money-making formula

    'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
    Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

    Lobster has gone mainstream

    Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
    Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

    14 best Easter decorations

    Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
    Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

    Paul Scholes column

    Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
    Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

    The future of GM

    The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
    Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

    Britain's mild winters could be numbered

    Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
    Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

    The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

    The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
    Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

    Cowslips vs honeysuckle

    It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
    Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss