Bisphenol A, also known as 4,4′-dihydroxy-2,2-diphenylpropane, or simply BPA, with the molecular formula C15H16O2, is an organic compound composed of two phenol groups that is produced by condensing acetone with carbolic acid. In laymen’s terms, BPA is a synthetic chemical compound used to make some plastics and resins that are used in manufacturing numerous products we use in our daily lives.
Bisphenol A is used as a reactive monomer to polymerize proteins, which initiates a chemical process that leads to the formation of polymer chains. As such, BPA is produced in mass quantities for the primary purpose of manufacturing polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins.
Despite bisphenol A has been used commercially for more than half a century, it has only become familiar to consumers in recent years. This is due to concerns over the impact on the environment and human health. Environmental studies indicate that this organic compound interferes with nitrogen uptake in certain plants, namely legumes such as beans. Several studies have also found levels of BPA in municipal wastewater.
BPA is said by some to also be an environmental contaminant, having been reported in water and sediment at various levels. Many believe that even low-level exposure can be dangerous, as has been shown in some studies with animals. Some studies link BPA exposure to different types of cancers as well as other diseases and disorders. The threats of breast cancer, prostate cancer, diabetes, obesity, and miscarriage may be exacerbated by BPA exposure, and it may increase hyperactivity according to some studies.
In terms of the impact of long-term exposure of Bisphenol A on humans, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found that nearly 95 percent of Americans over the age of six have low levels of BPA that can be detected in their urine. Researchers believe that the chemical may enter the body through regular consumption of foods and drinks packaged in materials that have been treated with the substance. Aside from consuming canned goods and drinking from plastic bottles, exposure may also come from drinking some wines or even having teeth sealed.
BPA may act as a hormone disruptor, or an element that can interfere with proper hormonal function leading to various health problems. Still, most governments are not prepared to enact a full ban until further testing has been completed, since there are competing studies and study of human exposure has not been done extensively. Due to limited human study, the question of whether or not bisphenol A is dangerous to humans continues to fuel controversy.
Consumers can take other steps to help limit exposure as well, such as choosing glass instead of plastic where possible, not using plastic containers in the microwave or with hot foods or beverages, not putting plastic in the dishwasher, and avoiding strong cleaners such as bleach when cleaning plastics.