TUESDAY, Feb. 28, 2012 (HealthDay News) -- Exposure to bisphenol A (BPA), a controversial chemical commonly used to make plastics, increases a person's risk of developing heart disease later in life, a new study suggests.
People primarily are exposed to BPA through packaged foods and drinks, but also may be exposed through drinking water, dental sealants and inhaling household dust.
Over a 10-year period, researchers compared BPA levels in 758 people who were initially healthy but later developed heart disease to levels in 861 people who did not develop the disease. These subjects were part of a long-term population study led by the University of Cambridge, in the U.K.
The study found that the subjects who developed heart disease had higher levels of the chemical in their urine at the start of the study than those who did not develop the disease.
The researchers, from the Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry, the University of Exeter and the European Centre for the Environment and Human Health, noted the findings are limited because only one urine sample from each participant was available at the beginning of the 10-year period.
Although the study, published online Feb. 21 in the journal Circulation, shows an association between BPA and increased heart disease risk, it doesn't prove a cause-and-effect relationship, the researchers pointed out.
"This study strengthens the statistical link between BPA and heart disease, but we can't be certain that BPA itself is responsible," study leader David Melzer, a professor at Peninsula Medical School, said in a news release. "It is now important that government agencies organize drug-style safety trials of BPA in humans, [with] as much basic information about how BPA behaves in the human body is still unknown."
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration provides more information on bisphenol A.