Bisphenol A overrides the natural heartbeat signal causing female heart cells to misfire, according to a recent study. Given how pervasive BPA is these days, this could mean heart problems, possibly even fatal ones, for millions of women.
BPA is everywhere
BPA is ubiquitous in the industrial world: in clear plastic containers, in the epoxy lining of canned foods, in dental sealants, and even coating many store receipts. Studies in the past five years have shown that nearly everyone living in the industrial world encounters at least trace amounts of this compound.
Yet industries using plastics for packaging, as well as some mainstream medical experts, have long assured the public that small concentrations of BPA do not pose a serious health hazard. FDA effortsin reference to BPA have so far been limited to supporting industry self-limitation such as eliminating the compound from products specifically designed for infants and children.
Yet mounting evidence shows that BPA is a health hazard for adults as well as children. Previous studies have demonstrated that adults whose urine reveals high levels of BPA also have higher risk for cardiovascular disease.
New research on BPA and estrogen
In new research, which will be published in the February 2012 issue of Endocrinology, now finds that even low concentrations of BPA can cause heart problems for women because of the way the compound mimics estrogen’s effect on the heart.
Researchers, led by Hong-Sheng Wang of the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, exposed female heart tissue to levels of BPA similar to what has been reported in humans. The study found that parts-per-trillion concentrations of BPA caused heart-muscle cells to shift their beat from that of the body’s central pacemaker. The unsynchronized beating can cause arrhythmia, and possibly trigger sudden cardiac death, says Wang.
In laboratory studies, the researchers observed that both estrogen and BPA cause female heart cells to leak calcium. The research team traces this gender-specific effect to cell-surface the estrogen sensors in the heart. Estrogen sensors seem to operate differently in heart tissue than elsewhere in the body, with changes in cell contraction occurring within two minutes. Wang’s team found that both estrogen and BPA can cause arrhythmia even at a dose as low as 0.2 parts per billion. Delivering equal doses of estrogen and BPA together increases the cardiac effect more than a double dose of either substance on its own.
Laura Vandenberg of Tufts University emphasizes the importance Wang’s study in demonstrating the dangers of even low levels of BPA. Vandenberg, whose own research has shown that the US population has higher concentrations of BPA levels than Canadians, states that “We need to start pushing for chemical reform,” she states.
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