BPA has been a frequent topic in the news in recent years, because it’s an endocrine-disrupting chemical -- a compound that can imitate or disrupt the natural chemical regulators in your body such as those that control insulin and sex hormones. Disrupting hormones will affect your health.
By Becca Yeamans
Bisphenol A (BPA) is a chemical used in the production process of many plastic water bottles, food containers, as well as liners of food cans and the coating on thermal paper cash register tape.
BPA has been a frequent topic in the news in recent years, as it was discovered not too long ago that it’s an endocrine-disrupting chemical, which can wreak havoc on the environment and cause many public health problems.
AS POWERFUL AS NATURAL HORMONES
It was originally thought that BPA was a relatively weak estrogenic compound, though studies have recently suggested that BPA is just as strong an estrogenic compound than natural hormones like estradiol.
In other words, what was thought of as being relatively benign, BPA can actually cause significant problems at the levels currently present in the environment.
EXPOSURE FROM FOOD AND BEVERAGES
Often times, humans are exposed to BPA by consuming food or beverages out of plastic containers that have been treated with the compound. The levels of BPA ingested are particularly high when the plastic container has been heated in one way or another (i.e. by a microwave).
PLASTIC WATER PIPES ARE A SIGNIFICANT SOURCE
A significant number of people can be exposed to BPA through the water supply. At some point during the water treatment process, the water travels through PVC piping, the plastic of which is treated with BPA. In fact, many homes have water pipes plumbed with PVC -- identifiable by its white plastic nature.
As water travels through these pipes laden with BPA, it picks up the chemical and carries it to homes and businesses. In human, ingesting BPA has been associated with the development of diabetes, asthma, ovarian dysfunction, and obesity, and only in July of 2012 was this substance banned from baby bottles and drinking containers.
NOT LONG-LIVED IN THE NATURAL ENVIRONMENT
While research indicates that BPA can have serious effects once it's inside the human body, it actually doesn’t live for long in the environment.
Once it hits the environment, it’s quickly broken down by microorganisms, resulting in a half-life of only 2.5 to 4 days.
HOW CAN SHORT-LIVED BPA BE A PROBLEM?
If BPA has such a short half-life, then how can it still exist in the environment and cause problems?
In essence, while a single molecule of BPA is broken down relatively quickly, the fact remains that since BPA is present in so many man-made products and in the pipes carrying our drinking water, new molecules of BPA are continually added to the system.
While BPA is present in the environment, it’s not known whether derivatives of this chemical have the same negative consequences as the original chemical, or if reactions with other chemicals in the environment somehow either inactivate or further worsen these effects.