In 2008, the potential health risks of bisphenol A (BPA), a common chemical in plastics, made headlines. The parents were alarmed and the pediatricians flooded the people with questions. BPA was common in baby bottles, baby cups, baby cans and other products for infants. More than 90% of us have BPA in our bodies right now. We get most of it by eating foods that were in containers made with BPA. It is also possible to get BPA through air, dust and water. The US Food and Drug Administration used to say that BPA was safe. But in 2010 the agency changed its position. The FDA states that studies using standardized toxicity tests have shown that BPA is safe at low levels of human exposure. But based on other evidence, largely from animal studies, the FDA has expressed “some concern” about the potential effects of BPA on the brain, behavior and prostate glands in fetuses, infants and young children.
The two main uses for BPA, which account for about 95 percent of all BPA produced, are to make polycarbonate (C15H16O2) plastic (Rogers, 2017) and epoxy resins. Both are high performance materials that have been increasingly used for about five decades in a wide range of industrial and consumer applications. Although a variety of factors may influence material selection, the exceptional performance of these materials is certainly the main factor explaining their widespread use.
Polycarbonate plastic is a highly fire-resistant, lightweight and optically transparent plastic that also has high heat resistance and excellent electrical resistance. It’s this combination of strong attributes that make polycarbonate unique among the wide range of thermoplastics commercially available and therefore so widely used.
For example, common products that take advantage of these attributes include:
· Protective and corrective goggles (for example spectacle lenses and police / military visors)
· Sports safety equipment (for example helmets and face shields for the eye / face)
· Cars (for example, glazing, sunroofs, crash-resistant bumper)
· Compact discs and DVDs
· Life-saving medical devices (for example incubators, critical components of many medical devices that require clarity and can withstand sterilization)
· Food storage containers (for example reusable food and beverage containers)
· Electronic equipment (for example guts for mobile phones, computers, gaming consoles)
Polycarbonate has been used in many of these products for decades, it continues to be used today, and the global polycarbonate market is growing for a very simple reason, it works well on a diverse range of products.
Epoxy resins are thermosets that have a unique combination of strength, chemical resistance and strong adhesion. Most epoxy resins are made from BPA and these resins are widely used in products we count/relay on every day. Epoxy resins are well suited for a wide range of coating applications but also find increased use in high strength / lightweight composites. Common product categories where you will find epoxy resins include:
· Wind power (e.g. wind turbine rotor blades)
· Electronics and electrical equipment (e.g. printed circuit boards, electrical equipment)
· Paints and coatings (e.g. water-based paints, protective coatings for cans and metal containers, powder coatings for home appliances, steel tubes and primary coatings for automotive and marine applications, high performance and decorative floors)
· Aerospace (e.g. high strength composites)
· Marine (e.g. manufacture and repair of ships)
Just like in polycarbonate, epoxy resins have been used in many of these products for 50 years or more, and new applications continue to be developed today because of the high-performance attributes of epoxy resins.
The problem is that to whether polycarbonate plastic or epoxy resins, it is not a simple matter to find a material that can match the attributes and performance of these materials.
There are obviously benefits to BPA, those are, avoiding interactions between canned foods and the cans themselves, because if lacking a liner, canned foods would eventually corrode the can. The result would be food that is contaminated with metal, microbes or both, and cans that escape, which is unhealthy, inconvenient and straight up gross. Another thing to have in mind is that no one wants to do anything harmful. Perhaps most importantly, no one wants to be accused of, or, worse yet, perceived as, selling food that does not match everyone’s idea of what is healthy and safe, even if that idea is not backed by science. And last if you are going to make a change, you need to know what is changing and why. If you don´t, you may find yourself jumping out of the frying pan into the fire. (Krauss, 2012)
The Economy behind it:
Now by looking at the BPA problem/debate from an economic view we can analyze and strongly affirm that while polycarbonate and epoxy resins are the main applications for bisphenol A, other uses include flame retardants, unsaturated polyester resins, polysulfide resins, polyetherimide resins and polyacrylate resins. Polycarbonate is the main driver of the demand for bisphenol A. As of 2015, it accounted for almost 64% of the world demand for bisphenol A, while epoxy resins, the second largest end use, accounted for 34%. It is expected that these two engines of demand for bisphenol A will grow at an average annual rate of almost 3% and 4%, respectively, over the next five years. The overall health of the world economy will continue to play an important role in the future demand for bisphenol A, as the main derivatives, end-use markets include automotive, construction and electrical / electronic applications (as said before). With more than half of global demand, the Asian market will continue to expand.
Diagram 1: World consumption of BPA in 2015. (Ihsmarkit.com, 2018)
By looking at Diagram 1 we can see that Asia (including the Indian subcontinent) accounted for 56% of total global consumption of bisphenol A in 2015. North America and Western Europe combined accounted for about 36%. Together, these three major regions accounted for about 92% of total global consumption by 2015. During 2015-2020, total worldwide consumption of bisphenol A is expected to grow at an average annual rate of just over 3%. Demand for bisphenol A in Northeast Asia will grow faster than the rest of the world by about 5 percent a year over the next five years.
So, to conclude this document we can say that BPA does have its advantages and disadvantages as mentioned before, but even with all the talk about BPA being bad the demand for it seem to be increasing at a fast rate, so the producers have no worries in terms of finding a replacement, and is for the simple reason that again demand is going but more important, BPA is cheap and very effective to its purpose so before there is some real science and evidences behind this controversy, BPA still is the best option and more realistic in a time where resources are scarce. Now in my opinion looking at the evidences it isn’t 100% clear what the hazards are so we can’t yet make a decision on “is this right or is this wrong?” but since I looked at a economic point of view, I have to say that it is looking like BPA is the best option at this point since it is the most effective and cheap of resources for its purposes and plus this is looking like a big thing but if you thing about it I earlier said that 70% of people have BPA in their bodies and I best most of them or even all are living well in terms of health, so we should keep this chemical circulating in the market. Now to answer the question “Is the change caused by chemical reactions always good?” I have to say no, because although I said BPA should stay in the market in terms of advantages vs disadvantages, we can’t forget that there are problems to it and that’s why there is this big debate around it, and we can’t forget about other chemicals that have been proven to be bad to people such as: Ammonia, DDT, Thalidomide. And to conclude everything and leave no doubts I need to say that nothing is perfect so there’s always a bad side the only difference is if that bad side is big enough to worry people or not.