Is BPA biodegradable? (9 products that contain BPA)

In this article, the biodegradability of BPA will be questioned. Other covered topics would be: 

  • What is BPA?
  • What is the deal with BPA?
  • What is biodegradability?
  • How is waste classified based on biodegradability?
  • What are examples of biodegradable and non-biodegradable materials?
  • Is BPA biodegradable?
  • FAQs

Is BPA biodegradable?

Yes, BPA is biodegradable. BPA is found to be biodegradable and is not linked to any significant environmental impact because its concentrations are found to be less than 1 ppb in water bodies. 

BPA was introduced in the 1960s and began to be used widely in cans, bottles, electronic equipment, and even menstrual products. 

A number of negative impacts of BPA on human health are analysed and studied including hormone disruption, cancer, diabetes, weight loss, inflammations, and cardiovascular diseases. 

The safe limit threshold for BPA in water bodies is about 10 ppb, therefore, BPA is not linked with bioaccumulation.

What is BPA? (9 products that contain BPA)

If you remember your last visit to a grocery store to buy water bottles, you may remember seeing water bottles with tags of ‘BPA-free’. You may have wondered what is the deal with BPA. Why do consumer products boast that their products are BPA-free?

You may not have gotten your answers back then. But fret not. This article will answer all your questions and queries about BPA, why it is avoided, and what happens if we are exposed to BPA. Most importantly, is it biodegradable and eco-friendly?

First thing first, we need to commence with a basic introduction to what BPA is. Is it an organism or some sort of aerosol? Well, BPA is a chemical that was produced in the late half of the 20th century. 

BPA is expanded into Bisphenol-A. Like many other consumer products, BPA is also a child of the unprecedented scientific revolutions carried out after the industrial revolution and particularly world war 2.

BPA was introduced in the 1960s and has been used ever since. The most stood out uses of BPA included to be used in:

  • Plastic containers
  • Eyeglasses lenses
  • Sport equipment 
  • CDs and DVDs
  • Thermal printing
  • Packed foods
  • Cans
  • Electronics 
  • Menstrual products 

There were some of the most stand-out uses of BPA when it was introduced back then in the 1960s. However, the most eminent issue that fidgeted scientists and researchers was when BPA was used in food containers, plastic bottles, epoxies, and canned foods. 

The implications of the use of BPA will be elaborated on in the later sections of the article.

What is the deal with BPA?

You may wonder that if BPA has such widespread uses in a number of consumer products such as plastic bottles, epoxies, cans, plastic containers, and even electronic equipment; then why does everyone run away from BPA?

What is the deal with BPA that leads every smart consumer to avoid BPA in his bottles or canned foods?

In this article, we will discuss and analyse the various health implications that are caused by BPA. This will give us an educated idea of what is the importance of BPA. 

The most worrisome effect of BPA is that it can leach out of water bottles and food containers into the water and food items themselves. 

That means that if we use products that are made from BPA, chances are that BPA is not just limited to our water bottles and canned foods, but it is also entering our bodies. 

For example, as per one study, more than 80% of the participants had a significant amount of BPA in their urine because they were using consumer products that were made from BPA. 

It is plausible to know what can happen if a foreign synthetic product enters our body, right? There will be disruptions in our medical metabolisms leading to a whole list of toxic and even fatal diseases and maladies. 

BPA is a known hormone disruptor. It may cause disruptions in the natural system of hormone secretions and because every process in our body is dependent on hormones, BPA has the capacity to disrupt and exploit every system of our body. 

BPA may disrupt the processes that are linked to oestrogen hormone. This may lead to complications and anomalies related to reproduction, growth, foetal development, and energy levels. 

Owing to this reason, BPA may also be termed ‘Phytoestrogen’ because it mimics the natural oestrogen present in our bodies leading to a whole array of complications and medical anomalies. 

Another known effect of BPA is that it can also lead to mutations and cancer. Cancer, as you may know, is a mega disease that results in millions of deaths worldwide. In 2020 alone, cancer was responsible for more than 10 million deaths worldwide. 

BPA is also linked to heart problems and even diabetes. This is because BPA may damage the powerhouse of the cell ‘mitochondria’, which may lead to lethargy, increased weight, altered appetite, stress, and chronic inflammations. 

BPA may cause infertility but also become a contributing factor to many reproductive complications. More than that, BPA may also lead to developmental and growth-related problems in newborns and children. 

BPA may also cause endometriosis and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). In a nutshell, the adverse impacts of BPA on health can be summarised into the following key points: 

  • Cancer
  • Mutations
  • Endometriosis
  • Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
  • Hormone disruptions
  • Impaired cell growth
  • Lethargy
  • Weight gain
  • Altered appetite
  • Diabetes
  • Cardiovascular complications
  • Developmental issues
  • Infertility
  • Damage to foetus
  • Stress
  • Chronic inflammations

What is biodegradability?

Biodegradability can be called the Earth’s natural system to dispose of waste. It is a process of conversion of complex waste into simpler substances so that those substances may become a part of nature again.

It can be said that biodegradability is nature’s way of ensuring that waste does not gather and accumulate but rather gets back into the system.

The reason behind this is that mother nature is aware that if there is a waste generation and accumulation, then there will be a lot of negative impacts on the environment and life, in general. 

You may wonder what are the microbes that cause the process of biodegradation. Biodegradation is caused by microbes such as bacteria, fungi, viruses, algae, protozoa, and even yeast.

These microbes ensure that the waste produced is broken down into simpler substances so that it becomes a part of the system again. 

Have you ever seen a decaying animal by the side of a road? Or perhaps today you went to check your fridge and found out that the vegetables have started to de-colour and have a bad smell. 

If you have encountered anything like this, then congratulations. You have seen the live process of biodegradation. 

The term biodegradation is basically derived from two words ‘bio’ and ‘degradation’. Bio means life, whereas degradation refers to the process of the breakdown so that simpler materials may be produced. 

However, biodegradation has some limitations too. It is seen that not every product is biodegradable. Some products are biodegradable whereas some products can not be broken down by the action of microbes. 

How is waste classified based on biodegradability?

Based on biodegradability, waste can be classified into two classes. One is the type of waste which can be degraded by the action of microbes. This waste is termed biodegradable waste. 

The second is the type of waste which can not be degraded by the action of microbes. This type of waste is termed non-biodegradable waste.

Regarding biodegradability, the general rule of thumb is that natural materials are prone to the process of biodegradability. Microbes have no difficulty in degrading natural materials such as fruits, vegetables, animal waste, and manure. 

While non-natural materials like synthetic products are not prone to the process of biodegradation. As a result, non-natural materials may persist in the environment for hundreds of years. Typical examples can be plastics, epoxies et cetera. More examples will be covered in the next section.

What are some examples of biodegradable and non-biodegradable waste?

Biodegradable waste is that waste can be degraded by the action of microbes. This type of waste may degrade readily or may also take some months. 

As per some studies, biodegradable waste (like bio-plastics) may even take some years to degrade. Examples of biodegradable waste include: 

  • Food waste
  • Plant waste
  • Animal waste
  • Manure
  • Sewage 
  • Crop waste
  • Waste from slaughterhouse 
  • Natural fibres

Non-biodegradable waste, on the other hand, can not be degraded by the action of microbes. It is mainly because microbes cannot break the structures of this type of waste. 

It is generally perceived that materials that are synthesised in the lab from petroleum or fossil fuels are not biodegradable. 

Synthetic polymers are regarded as the most common non-biodegradable waste. Other examples may include: 

  • Electronic waste
  • Plastics 
  • Polyvinyl Chloride
  • Hospital waste 
  • Synthetic resins
  • Synthetic fibres
  • Nuclear waste
  • Hazardous waste
  • Chemical waste

Is BPA biodegradable?

BPA is an organic compound that is used in a number of consumer products such as bottles, cans, electronic equipment et cetera. 

With the given impacts of BPA on human health, it is logical and fair to assume that BPA must be harmful to the environment as well. 

However, as per studies, it is found that BPA is not as harmful to the environment as it is to human health. 

BPA is known to degrade in the environment readily and therefore, is regarded as biodegradable.

More than that, BPA is also found to be the least harmful to aquatic organisms as well because it does not bioaccumulate. 

The known concentration of BPA was studied to be less than 1 part per billion. However, BPA needs to be in amounts greater than 10 ppb in order to pose threats and risks to the environment and health. 

Conclusion

It is concluded that BPA was introduced in the 1960s and began to be used widely in cans, bottles, electronic equipment, and even menstrual products. 

A number of negative impacts of BPA on human health were analysed and studied, including hormone disruption, cancer, diabetes, weight loss, inflammations, and cardiovascular diseases. 

BPA was found to be biodegradable and was not linked to any significant environmental impact because its concentrations were found to be less than 1 ppb in water bodies. 

The safe limit threshold for BPA in water bodies is about 10 ppb, therefore, BPA was not linked with bioaccumulation. 

Frequently Asked Questions: Is BPA biodegradable?

How to make sure that one is saved from the effects of BPA?

It is incumbent to use materials that are BPA-free such as food packaging and water bottles. Further, it is also important to make sure that heat is not given to typical kitchenware because this may lead to BPA leaching. 

Is BPA natural or non-natural?

BPA is a synthetic organic compound that is most widely used in plastic and epoxies. 

References

  • Vandenberg, L. N., Hauser, R., Marcus, M., Olea, N., & Welshons, W. V. (2007). Human exposure to bisphenol A (BPA). Reproductive toxicology, 24(2), 139-177.
  • Schecter, A., Malik, N., Haffner, D., Smith, S., Harris, T. R., Paepke, O., & Birnbaum, L. (2010). Bisphenol a (BPA) in US food. Environmental science & technology, 44(24), 9425-9430.
  • Huang, Y. Q., Wong, C. K. C., Zheng, J. S., Bouwman, H., Barra, R., Wahlström, B., … & Wong, M. H. (2012). Bisphenol A (BPA) in China: a review of sources, environmental levels, and potential human health impacts. Environment international, 42, 91-99.
  • Li, D. K., Zhou, Z., Miao, M., He, Y., Wang, J., Ferber, J., … & Yuan, W. (2011). Urine bisphenol-A (BPA) level in relation to semen quality. Fertility and sterility, 95(2), 625-630.
  • Acconcia, F., Pallottini, V., & Marino, M. (2015). Molecular mechanisms of action of BPA. Dose-response, 13(4), 1559325815610582.
  • Konieczna, A., Rutkowska, A., & Rachon, D. (2015). Health risk of exposure to Bisphenol A (BPA). Roczniki Państwowego Zakładu Higieny, 66(1).

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