BPA Could Harm Developing Hearts, Research Suggests
One of the major health concerns associated with the widespread use of plastics is exposure to bisphenol A (BPA). BPA is an endocrine disruptor, meaning it mimics the effects of estrogen on the body and has been linked to the growth of tumors in the breast, uterus and prostate, impacts on pregnancy and fertility and disruption of the sexual development of the fetus that can cause cancer later in life.
Now, a new study indicates that BPA might also have a negative impact on the developing hearts of children.
According to a press release for the study published Monday in Phys.org, 8 million pounds of BPA are produced every year, and 90 percent of the population interacts with it through consumer or medical goods.
BPA is commonly found in plastic bottles and the lining of canned food and has been known to leach into groundwater from landfills. Plastics have also increasingly been used in medical devices, the press release noted.
The study, published May 9 in Scientific Reports, looked at the impact of BPA exposure on neonatal rat heart cells. It found exposure could lead to a lower heart rate, irregular cardiac rhythms and calcium instabilities that can increase skipped heart beats.
The study comes after other studies have found that BPA exposure is associated with abnormal heart beats, chest pain and coronary artery disease in adults.
"Current research explores the impact endocrine disruptors, specifically BPA, have on adults and their cardiovascular and kidney function," study co-author and Children's National Heart Institute and George Washington University Assistant Professor Nikki Gillum Posnack said in the press release.
"We know that once this chemical enters the body, it can be bioactive and therefore can influence how heart cells function. This is the first study to look at the impact BPA exposure can have on heart cells that are still developing."
More research is needed to determine the impacts of long-term BPA exposure on developing hearts, but this study simulated the amount of time children might be exposed to BPA in emergency care scenarios, since many medical professionals use plastics in treating young patients with cardiac or immune problems.
"We're exploring the potential—and inadvertent risk of plastic medical devices, which have revolutionized the medical field," Posnack said. "We're investigating whether these hospital-based exposures may cause unintended effects on cardiac function and looking at ways to mitigate chemical exposure. We hope this preliminary research incentivizes the development of alternative products by medical device manufacturers and encourages the research community to study the impact of plastics on sensitive patient populations," she said.
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By Aaron W Hunter
A chance discovery of a beautifully preserved fossil in the desert landscape of Morocco has solved one of the great mysteries of biology and paleontology: how starfish evolved their arms.
The Pompeii of palaeontology. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<h2></h2><p>Although starfish might appear very robust animals, they are typically made up of lots of hard parts attached by ligaments and soft tissue which, upon death, quickly degrade. This means we rely on places like the Fezouata formations to provide snapshots of their evolution.</p><p>The starfish fossil record is patchy, especially at the critical time when many of these animal groups first appeared. Sorting out how each of the various types of ancient starfish relate to each other is like putting a puzzle together when many of the parts are missing.</p><h2>The Oldest Starfish</h2><p><em><a href="https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/216101v1.full.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Cantabrigiaster</a></em> is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. It was discovered in 2003, but it has taken over 17 years to work out its true significance.</p><p>What makes <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> unique is that it lacks almost all the characteristics we find in brittle stars and starfish.</p><p>Starfish and brittle stars belong to the family Asterozoa. Their ancestors, the Somasteroids were especially fragile - before <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> we only had a handful of specimens. The celebrated Moroccan paleontologist Mohamed <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.palaeo.2016.06.041" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Ben Moula</a> and his local team was instrumental in discovering <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0031018216302334?via%3Dihub" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">these amazing fossils</a> near the town of Zagora, in Morocco.</p><h2>The Breakthrough</h2><p>Our breakthrough moment came when I compared the arms of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> with those of modern sea lilles, filter feeders with long feathery arms that tend to be attached to the sea floor by a stem or stalk.</p><p>The striking similarity between these modern filter feeders and the ancient starfish led our team from the University of Cambridge and Harvard University to create a new analysis. We applied a biological model to the features of all the current early Asterozoa fossils in existence, along with a sample of their closest relatives.</p>
Cantabrigiaster is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<p>Our results demonstrate <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> is the most primitive of all the Asterozoa, and most likely evolved from ancient animals called crinoids that lived 250 million years before dinosaurs. The five arms of starfish are a relic left over from these ancestors. In the case of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em>, and its starfish descendants, it evolved by flipping upside-down so its arms are face down on the sediment to feed.</p><p>Although we sampled a relatively small numbers of those ancestors, one of the unexpected outcomes was it provided an idea of how they could be related to each other. Paleontologists studying echinoderms are often lost in detail as all the different groups are so radically different from each other, so it is hard to tell which evolved first.</p>
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