BPA (Bisphenol A), is a chemical widely used to make hard, clear plastics. Its strength, structural stability, and light weight have made it excellent for use in things like eyeglasses and water bottles. However, BPA has been linked to several health problems as it disrupts how hormones function in the body. For many years BPA has been banned by the U.S. government for use in baby products that come into contact with food, the FDA is now considering the amount of exposure that is safe for adults. This will likely result in bans on BPA use in plastics that come into contact with food overall.
Given the negative health effects of consuming BPA, and the fact that it breaks down when exposed to water, scientists have been searching for replacements for years. It would seem easy to simply replace it with another chemical. However, it is not that easy as the very things that make BPA such an integral ingredient in plastics are the things that lead to its health risks. When BPA polycarbonates are exposed to water and heat – like when you put a plastic bottle in your dishwasher – the chemical bonds that link these BPA molecules together can break down, and BPA is more susceptible to this than other plastics like polyethylene. Research has also determined that many structurally similar chemical replacements, may pose the same health risks. However, all is not lost. There is promising new research, including making these polycarbonates by reacting bio-based molecules with carbon dioxide gas.
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