FACTBOX: Bisphenol A is a common, controversial chemical

(Reuters) - British researchers have linked a chemical used in many everyday items to human illness. Here are some facts about the chemical called bisphenol A, or BPA.

-- BPA is used to make polycarbonate plastic, a clear shatter-resistant material used in baby and water bottles, lenses, helmets, goggles, plastic utensils and dishes, toys, CDs, DVDs, and medical devices. It is used to coat in the coating in most food and beverage cans and in dental fillings.

-- There has been controversy over whether it is harmful to human health. People can consume trace amounts of BPA when it leaches out of plastic into liquid such as baby formula, water or food inside a container.

-- The chemical mimics the hormone estrogen in the body. Consumer advocates and environmentalists have argued based on studies involving laboratory animals that it is harmful.

-- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the European Union’s top food safety body have said current evidence indicates BPA is safe as currently used. Canadian health authorities have announced plans to ban some products. The U.S. National Toxicology Program has “some concern” it may harm development of the prostate and brain.

-- Tuesday’s Journal of the American Medical Association report found that Americans with the highest levels of BPA in their bodies were more likely to have cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and liver enzyme abnormalities.

-- Studies have shown that BPA is in the urine of more than 90 percent of people in the United States.

Editing by Maggie Fox