Exposure to bisphenol-A, a chemical found in many plastics and commonly known as BPA, may increase the chance of people's arteries narrowing, which can lead to a heart attack, according to a new study.

Researchers studied the BPA levels of 591 people who were suspected by their doctors of having severe coronary artery disease (CAD), a condition of narrowing arteries. They found that BPA levels were higher in those who were ultimately diagnosed with the disease.

The results add to a growing body of literature suggesting that BPA is harmful to human health, though the results "merit further investigation, but are not yet definitive enough to really worry people," said study author David Mosedale, chairman of the Metabonomics and Genomics in Coronary Artery Disease study. "There are a lot of things out there that we can consider harmful the longer we look," he said.

The people in the study were referred by their doctors to a CAD specialist because they exhibited some signs of the disease. The researchers used urine samples to measure the level of BPA in each person's body.

A one-time urine sample is a standard way to measure BPA levels, because the chemical is very steadily processed by the body, Mosedale said. If a person is not exposed to it for a few days, the urine will be clear of BPA.

The researchers found that the 385 people eventually diagnosed with severe CAD had significantly higher BPA levels than the 120 participants found to have normal arteries.

Another 86 participants had intermediate CAD, which did not correlate with BPA levels.

Researchers found a correlation between coronary disease and BPA, not a cause-and-effect link, and an explanation for the correlation has not been found, the researchers wrote. Still, the link held even with the researchers took into account factors such as obesity and physical activity, which are predictors of CAD.

BPA has been found to be detrimental to health in many ways, and should be avoided, according to Rebecca Roberts, a biology professor at Ursinus College in Pennsylvania who studies BPA's effects on the body.

Because many food containers have BPA, people often ingest the chemical while eating. Limiting use of plastics for food consumption and staying away from canned foods and beverages, which have high BPA levels, and cash register receipts, can limit exposure, Roberts said.

Because children are still developing, keeping them away from the chemical is particularly important, if difficult, Roberts said.

The study is published today (Aug. 15) in the journal PLoS ONE.

Pass it on: Exposure to BPA is linked to an increased risk of coronary artery disease.

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