Been buying plastic products that tout themselves to be “BPA Free”? Well, you should be wondering what chemical has been substituted for BPA (its full name is Bisphenol A) in the plastic.
As reported by Erica Geis in The New York Times, Bisphenol S is used in place of BPA. The chemical is similar to BPA, which is a synthetic estrogen that hardens plastic. Scientific evidence is inconclusive but BPA could be the underlying cause of a series of health disorders.Â BPA binds to hormone receptors in the human body, even if it’s present at trace levels, and may cause infertility, autism, obesity, diabetes, and some cancers. Phthalates, another common chemical in plastics, could have the same effects.
The European Union, Canada, and some U.S. states have restricted the use of BPA. But a recent study found that the alternative chemicals might not any better. Biodegradable, plant-based bioplastic products may not be safer because they are mostly made by processes involving the same chemicals.
The issues with plastics and their additives feed into a broader problem: chemical policy. As the American Association of Pediatrics highlighted with their recent call for chemical management reform, the U.S. Toxic Substances Control Act allows many chemicals to be on the market without adequate safety assessment. Furthermore, companies file thousands of claims each year to protect their chemical recipes as trade secrets. Most such claims have never been reviewed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Geis explains in her article:
Democrats introduced bills in both the House and Senate last year to change the toxic substances act but they were not adopted. Last week, Sen.Â Frank R. Lautenberg, a Democrat from New Jersey, introduced an updated bill, the Safe Chemicals Act of 2011.
The E.P.A., meanwhile has said that it will in future review claims as they come in, effectively reversing a previous presumption of entitlement to confidentiality. It has also said it will review as many past claims as possible â€” a major undertaking, since there is a backlog of about 22,000 untested claims, said Barbara Cunningham, deputy director of the E.P.A.â€™s Office of Pollution Prevention & Toxics.
Countries like Japan, Canada, Australia, and Korea have made changes to their chemical policies. The U.S. has lagged behind.
Rajendrani "Raj" Mukhopadhyay is a science writer and editor who contributes news stories and feature articles on scientific advances to a variety of magazines. Raj holds Ph.D. in biophysics from Johns Hopkins University.