University of Idaho researchers reported Tuesday that fetal heart development in rhesus monkeys whose mothers were exposed to bisphenol A or BPA, a common plastics additive, showed genetic changes that may signal later heart problems.
Gordon Murdoch, an associate professor of physiology in the animal and veterinary science department, led the study funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Passport Foundation. The results were reported recently in PLOS ONE, an open-access scientific journal.
When the pregnant monkeys were fed fruit containing BPA, their blood and their fetuses’ blood showed increased levels of BPA, according to a simultaneous study by researcher Fred vom Saal at the University of Missouri, Columbia. Murdoch examined the same monkeys and found fetal genetic changes affecting heart health.
“Our results intensify concerns about the effect of BPA in the genesis of human metabolic and cardiovascular diseases, though our current study does not prove a direct link,” Murdoch said.
BPA is found in many products, from plastic and epoxy resins lining food and beverage containers to water bottles. The coating on sales receipts, such as those at gas pumps or grocery stores, contain BPA and are increasingly recognized as a common source of exposure for people, Murdoch said.
Water bottles intended for hiking use have not contained BPA for several years. Those that do are hard, polycarbonate bottles with the recycling number 7.
Although the study is the first to study BPA effects on developing hearts, Murdoch said, previous studies suggested a correlation between higher BPA concentrations in men’s urine and increased risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
Consumers can reduce exposure to BPA through their choice of products, for example by choosing emailed receipts over ones printed on thermal paper, and frozen vegetables over canned.