Bisphenol A (BPA) is an organic compound prepared by “the condensation of acetone with two equivalents of phenol and catalyzed by an acid”.¹ Bisphenol A was first synthesized by a Germany Scientist named Thomas Zincke in 1905. No uses or applications were proposed at this time. In 1935 polycarbonate was developed using BPA as the starting product. Polycarbonate was determined to many positive qualities. It was clear, shatter resistant and heat resistant. Due to these qualities it started being produced commercially in 1957 in America and in 1958 in Europe. Around this time epoxy resins were also developed from BPA. Since epoxy resins had some of the same qualities as polycarbonate many applications became available for them. Today polycarbonate and epoxy resins are used in almost everything such as eye glass lenses, medical equipment, CD’s, DVD’s, cell phones, adhesives and circuit boards.² In the United State alone two to three billion pounds of BPA are produced yearly.³

The structure of Bisphenol A

Polycarbonate is also used to make food containers, baby bottles, refillable water containers, resins that line metal food and beverage cans. The chemical is ingested every time food is eaten or water is drunk that came from a container containing BPA. This means that everyone is exposed to the chemical. Although we are exposed to many other chemicals BPA is thought to be most harmful to a developing fetus and young children.³

In a total of one hundred and sixty seven experiments performed testing the effects of BPA, 153 reported harmful effects and only fourteen did not. These tests coincide with the health problems that have recently increased in the human population. Prostate cancer, insulin resistance and childhood obesity have all increased. In the rats tested, newborns were exposed to low doses of BPA. As adults the rats were found to have early stage prostate cancer. In pregnant rats that were also exposed the babies gained weight very easily and continued to be overweight during their lifespan while the babies of the control rats grew normally. This is also happening in human babies as well and BPA might be the reason for it.³
Nalgene bottles are now made BPA free

The Journal of the American Medical Association(JAMA) has also found evidence linking BPA to the cause of heart disease, diabetes and liver damage. Through urine testing people found with high concentrations of BPA were more likely to have these problems. In their experiments only adults were tested and the JAMA admits that more studies need to be done to confirm their results. The study was published as the same time as the FDA announced⁴
that the levels of exposure to BPA are not enough to cause health problems in anyone. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) responded to their claim saying that the data used to make the decision was not up to date and nor does it consider young children and unborn fetus’s. There is clearly a need for more testing to be done on the effects of Bisphenol A in order to get a true answer on who it effects and what levels it takes to affect an adult versus the levels it takes to affect an unborn fetus.

Due to the uncertainty in the effects of Bisphenol A Canada has proposed a ban on baby bottles due to the fact that BPA could cause harm⁴ and is the first country to take any action. The Canadian government has put in place a Chemicals Management Plan. The goal of this plan is to determine harmful effects from chemicals that many not have been discovered before to determine the safety of chemicals. The Canadian Government states that in general people are not exposed to enough BPA to cause adverse health effects but is more closely examining how BPA could hurt newborns and infants less than eighteen months. These studies have lead to a ban on baby bottles since the BPA is released from the lining of the formula can into the formula and then adding hot water to the bottle or boiling the bottle. Therefore Canada is working to minimize the amount of BPA in the linings of the cans and work on developing linings that contain no BPA at all.⁶

Recycling Code for Polyvinyl Alcohol

With all of this controversy everyone is asking themselves how can I protect myself or my children in case BPA is a harmful chemical?
  • Baby bottles that are made from polycarbonate need to be thrown out and replaced with either plastic baby bottles that are BPA free or made from glass . Since the BPA controversy many well known makers of baby bottles have started BPA free lines.⁷
  • Water bott l es made from polycarbonate also need to be replaced. BPA free water plastic bottles are widely available and some of t he most popular are made by Nalgene, Camelback, Klean Kanteen and the Platypus Platy Bottle. Another option is the Sigg Traveler which is made out of recycled aluminum.⁸
  • Recycling codes on plastic bottles need be checked. #1, #2, #4, #5, and #6 are all considered safe. But #3 and #7 need to be avoided. #3 is made from polyvinyl chlorine which contains phthalates. #7 is usually made from polycarbonate which contains BPA.⁷
  • Containers use d to store cold food such as leftovers from last night’s dinner should not be used in the microwave. The plastic is not designed for heating at all. Instead use microwaveable glass or ceramic cookware.⁷

(1) “Bisphenol A.” Wikipedia. (24 March 2009).
(2) “Bisphenol A: Information Sheet.” Bisphenol A. ( 24 March 2009)
(3) Hileman, B.; Chemical & Engineering, 2008, 85-16, 38.
(4) Hess, G.; Chemical & Engineering, 2008, 86-38, 14.
(5) Erickson, B.; Chemical & Engineering, 2008, 86-34, 10.
(6) “Bisphenol A.” Chemical Substances. (25 March 2009).
(7) Roosevelt, Margot. “Tips for Safe Toys and other Household Products.” Time Magazine 06 Dec. 2006.
(8) Hylton, Hilary. “Top 5 Eco-Friendly Water Bottles.” Time Magazine 11 Dec. 2008.

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