Issue Date: September 7, 2009
Bisphenol A Versus 'Responsible Care'
A caption in "Engineering Polymers" describes a car that incorporates "polycarbonate as part of its environmentally friendly design" (C&EN, June 22, page 15). C&EN acknowledges in a later story (page 18) that polycarbonate is the "most notorious" headache among industry polymer problems because its basic ingredient, bisphenol A (BPA), is an endocrine-disrupting compound. We suggest that a multi-billion-pound-per-annum commodity chemical that is an endocrine-disrupting compound of BPA's demonstrated high potency is much more than just a "headache."
Hundreds of studies by academic scientists using animals and cells indicate that BPA is linked to a wide array of health problems (Reprod. Toxicol. 2007,14, 131). These experiments repeatedly report that at high-parts-per-trillion to low-parts-per-billion concentrations currently found in the average person, BPA can program developing organs and systems for diseases later in life.
The results implicate BPA in a wide array of human disorders, including breast and prostate cancer, obesity, diabetes, reproductive system abnormalities (uterine fibroids and ovarian cysts in females and low sperm count and reduced testosterone levels in males), and neurobehavioral abnormalities. The first large epidemiological study of BPA reported last year that elevated levels of BPA in Americans are associated with greater risk of heart attacks, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes (J. Am. Med. Assoc. 2008, 300, 1303).
Although the use of BPA/polycarbonate in plastic windows is unlikely to contribute immediately to human exposure, as those windows move into the waste stream, they will inevitably degrade and contaminate leachate from landfills and from there drinking-water supplies. The Canadian Ministry of Health and Ministry of the Environment concluded that "bisphenol A is acutely toxic to aquatic organisms and is considered highly hazardous to the aquatic environment. It can also impact the normal development of individual organisms and influence the development of their offspring, with demonstrated adverse effects on aquatic organisms as well as on reproduction in earthworms, growth in terrestrial plants, and development in mammals and birds."
The American Chemistry Council announced in a July 28, 2008, press release that "America's leading chemical companies have taken the steps to go above and beyond government rules and regulations with American Chemistry Council's flagship program, the Responsible Care performance initiative." Widespread use of BPA in products with no thought concerning the "end of life" consequences for human and ecological health directly violates the concept of "responsible care." This is a perfect opportunity for BPA producers to demonstrate that the ACC press release was more than a public relations gimmick.
John Peterson Myers
Environmental Health Sciences
Frederick S. vom Saal
University of Missouri, Columbia
Terrence J. Collins
Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh
I've been following the bisphenol A controversy in C&EN ("Can Conundrum," July 20, page 28) and other media for several months. Based on what I've seen so far, whether BPA actually can cause adverse health effects in humans at levels below the EPA exposure limit (50 microgram/kg/day) seems uncertain or even questionable.
Your readers might be interested in a recent critique "Science Suppressed: How America became obsessed with BPA" and related articles by the Statistical Assessment Service affiliated with George Mason University at www.STATS.org, which presents a different view than generally reported in the popular media. Note: I have no connection with STATS or BPA companies.
Donald R. Kelsey
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