You may recognize the term BPA, as “BPA-free” labels can be found all over water bottles nowadays, and that’s because when consumers found out about the hazardous risks associated with this chemical, they started to protest its inclusion in plastics.
BPA can be found in practically anything that’s plastic, from food containers to water bottles to eyeglasses. Even our groundwater has been contaminated by BPA because we use so much of it, and so it can seep in through industrial waste streams, landfill runoff, etc.
BPA poses a danger to human health because it mimics the hormone estrogen, and can therefore adversely affect the endocrine system. BPA can also negatively affect brain function, the nervous system, growth, metabolism, and the reproductive system.
When all of this became public knowledge, people started boycotting plastics containing BPA, causing companies to respond to these concerns by removing it from their products and labelling them as “BPA-free” so there was no confusion.
However, it’s important to note that BPA-free labelling is largely just a marketing scheme, making consumers believe that these products are free from harsh chemicals. In reality, most of the BPA alternatives used to replace BPA are equally as harmful as BPA itself.
A study published in Environmental Health Perspectives suggests that the chemicals used to replace BPA pose the same risks on the human body, ie. hormone disruption. The researchers studied two different BPA alternatives, Bisphenol S and F, referred to as BPS and BPF. These alternatives were chosen because they perform similarly to BPA, but as it turns out, these chemicals are a little too similar to BPA.
You can read more about that in our CE article:
Well, instead of adding more gross chemicals to our consumer goods, water, plastic, and whatever else, a group of chemists have discovered an alternative. A team working out of Carnegie Mellon University have found a way to remove BPA from water, and it’s not a slow and painful process, either; it only takes 30 minutes!
Chemists Find a Way to Remove BPA From Water
Published in Green Chemistry, the study describes how researchers discovered an efficient way of removing BPA from water. This method removes an astonishing 99% of BPA, which could be a huge game changer when it comes to treating our water.
The researchers combined catalysts called tetra-amido macrocyclic ligands (TAMLs) with hydrogen peroxide in order to “break down” the chemicals in the water. This causes the BPA to clump together, making it easier to filter out. So, by adding these two ingredients into water, BPA levels will drop 99% in just a half an hour.
“Because TAML/hydrogen peroxide treatment eliminates BPA from water so easily at concentrations that are similar to a variety of waste streams including paper-plant processing solutions and landfill leachate, assuming the lab studies transfer to the real world, we can now offer a new and simple procedure for reducing BPA exposures worldwide,” lead author Terrence J Collins, the Teresa Heinz professor of Green Chemistry at Carnegie Mellon, explained.
The researchers even tested the water to ensure that it was safe to drink after being decontaminated from BPA. They conducted the safety tests on zebrafish embryos, and found no signs of estrogen activity, nor did it cause any abnormalities in yeast and developing zebrafish embryos.
Collins further explained the prevalence of BPA and why it’s so important to remove it:
BPAs are not only toxic, but they also come from fossil fuel resources so that they are meant to be replaced by a more sustainable alternative… However, developing a new sustainable material, with the right properties and no toxicity, takes time and effort so removing BPAs in the first place in this period of transition is vital too. That is why this research is very important. . . .
There is no escape from BPA — for any living creature. The massive global use of BPA burdens an already overstrained water treatment infrastructure and most BPA water releases simply never reach a water treatment facility. Our approach has high potential to be a much better remediation strategy for BPA-contaminated waste streams.
The work this team is doing is crucial to improving not only the quality of our water, but the health of our bodies and the environment as well. 15 billion pounds of BPA are still being produced each year, making BPA exposure a very real, ongoing issue.
Although removing BPA is a huge step in overcoming this problem, it’s certainly not the only one that needs to be taken. Ultimately, removing BPA from water is a great example of “the bandaid effect,” because we’re simply covering up a problem that could easily be prevented by not using BPA in the first place.
We know it’s bad for our health, we know it can end up contaminating the environment, so why do we continue to use it? Businessmen might argue that it’s too costly, but is there any greater cost than the adverse effects on our health and the environment? If we didn’t use it so much, there would be no need to spend so much time and money on filtering it out and mitigating the adverse effects of BPA contamination in the first place.