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Common packaging chemical linked to heart disease, diabetes

A new study suggests that a chemical often used in plastic food and drink packaging is linked with cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Those with high levels of this chemical in their urine were twice as likely to have these diseases. The chemical is Bisphenol A (BPA). It is found in polycarbonate plastics used in CD/DVD cases, electronic and sports equipment, and reusable food and drink containers. The chemical is also used in epoxy resins used in paints, adhesives, and protective liners in metal food and drink cans. People are exposed through drinking water, on their skin, and in household dust.

US studies have found detectable levels of BPA in more than 90% of the population. Researchers from the UK's Peninsula Medical School in Exeter looked at BPA levels in the urine of 1,400 US adults. They looked for those who had been diagnosed with one of eight major diseases including stroke, arthiritis, and thyroid disease.

There wasn’t a strong link for any other disease except for cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Obese people were already at higher risk for these disease but the researchers said it was possible that eating more was simply linked to a higher intake of the chemical.

Animal tests first raised concerns about this chemical effecting humans. It has the potential to disrupt hormone balance. BPA has been found to mimic the female sex hormone oestrogen. This could have an impact on development and reproduction.

Dr David Melzer, who led the study, said: "These findings add to the evidence suggesting adverse effects of low-dose BPA in animals.

"Independent replication and follow-up studies are needed to confirm these findings and to provide evidence on whether the associations are causal."

He added: "Given the substantial negative effects on adult health that may be associated with increased BPA concentrations and also given the potential for reducing human exposure, our findings deserve scientific follow-up."

This study is not conclusive and follow-up studies need to be done. Professor Richard Sharpe, of the University of Edinburgh, said for some people a raised risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes could simply be down to drinking too many high sugar canned drinks.

Both the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and UK's Food Standards Agency are keeping the safety of BPA under review.

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