Is BPA-free nylon biodegradable? (17 health impacts of BPA)

In this article, the biodegradability of BPA-free nylon will be scrutinised. Other covered aspects would be: 

  • What is BPA-free nylon?
  • What is BPA?
  • What are the health implications of BPA?
  • What is biodegradability?
  • What are examples of biodegradable and non-biodegradable products?
  • Is BPA-free nylon biodegradable?

Is BPA-free nylon biodegradable?

BPA-free nylon is not biodegradable because it is a synthetic polymer made from coal and petroleum. 

BPA-free nylon is better off than conventional nylon which contains BPA because BPA is linked to a number of health risks and complications such as cancers, mutations, skin diseases, hormone disruptions et cetera.

Since Nylon is made from petroleum-derived products and also at the expense of non-renewable resources, it is linked with GHGs emissions and environmental anomalies like global warming et cetera. 

What is BPA-free nylon?

BPA-free Nylon is a type of nylon that is produced BPA-free. Nylon is a synthetic polymer which is produced from the polymerisation process. Nylon may contain Bisphenol-A too, which is a known carcinogen and hormone disruptor. 

BPA-free nylon is a type of nylon which is free from BPA and hence the negative impacts caused by BPA on the environment and human health are avoided in this way. 

Nylon is a  commonly used synthetic polymer that is made in the labs by the use of various chemicals. It may be clear that nylon is a man-made product and is not derived from nature. 

Like other synthetic polymers, nylon also exhibits unique properties that give it an edge in various applications and industries. Nylon may have the following properties: 

  • Good mechanical strength 
  • Electrical insulation 
  • Resistance to radiation 
  • Mechanical damping 
  • Fatigue resistance 
  • Wear-protection 

Owing to these properties, it is used in a number of applications. These applications may range from construction, use as fibres, tents, switchgear, sports equipment, and even medical implants. 

Therefore, it is plausible to assume that the applications of nylon stretch to many industries and therefore, it offers a lot of economic and utilitarian value to the people. 

However, the real question is, do all these applications come at any hidden costs? Time and again we have seen that commercial products such as plastics although offer a lot of positive utility, comes at the budget of our health and the environment. 

Unfortunately, the case of nylon is no different than the observed normality. Since nylon is made in the lab with the involvement of multiple chemicals, it is considered harmful to both humans and the environment. These negative impacts may include:

  • Infiltration into food chains 
  • Soil and water toxicity 
  • Pollution 
  • The rise in sea levels 
  • Global warming
  • Deforestation 
  • Soil erosion 
  • Loss of life
  • Destruction of habitats 

Some of the negative effects of nylon on health may be: 

  • Neurotoxicity 
  • Digestion problems 
  • Necrosis 
  • Skin irritation
  • Eye diseases 
  • Cancers
  • Psychological issues

What is BPA?

BPA is expanded into Bisphenol-A. It is an organic compound which is synthesised in the lab. As it is made in the lab, it can be guessed that there will be negative impacts of BPA on health and the environment. 

BPA is also the result of increased consumerism and commercialisation. Its use became popular in the 1960s because it delivered good utility and improved the quality of consumer products. 

Owing to the benefits of BPA, it was used in a number of commercial products. The most prominent use of BPA was in plastic bottles and kitchenware. 

Other uses of BPA included being used in food packaging, lenses, electronic products, canned foods, and even sports equipment. 

Based on it, it can be rightly said that the use of BPA was expanded to a number of applications and industries. However, with scientific endeavours, it was researched that the applications and usability of BPA are not as glittery as it is supposed to be. 

With scientific development, a number of health and environmental concerns related to BPA were raised which led to a number of frowns in the community at large. The health impacts of BPA will be studied in the next section

What are the health implications of BPA? (17 health impacts of BPA)

After the initial use of BPA, there were seen a number of negative impacts of BPA on health and the environment. 

The most prominent effect of BPA on health was the disruption of hormones because BPA is termed phytoestrogen. This is because it is similar in structure to the hormone ‘oestrogen’ and thus may cause hormonal issues. 

Another blunt effect of BPA on human health is that it may also cause cancer and mutations. Cancer is a leading cause of death worldwide accounting for more than 10 million deaths. BPA just becomes another reason for this grave figure. 

BPA may also accumulate in the body and cause various issues like neuro complications and developmental issues. 

Children are at a greater risk of BPA exposure and effect. In a study, it was seen that more than 80% of the participants exposed to BPA showed considerable amounts of BPA in their systems.

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: 

  • Altered appetite
  • Diabetes
  • Cardiovascular complications
  • Developmental issues
  • Infertility
  • Cancer
  • Mutations
  • Endometriosis
  • Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
  • Hormone disruptions
  • Impaired cell growth
  • Lethargy
  • Weight gain
  • Fatigue
  • 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 the 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. 

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-free nylon biodegradable?

After covering the basic details, we can now move to the main question of whether BPA-free nylon is biodegradable or not. 

It has been studied that for a product to be biodegradable, it must be made from natural materials; whereas nylon is a synthetic polymer. 

Therefore, it is not biodegradable. Further, the chemical BPA is regarded as biodegradable; therefore, the addition or extrusion of BPA from nylon has nothing to do with its biodegradability. 

Since nylon is not biodegradable, it will persist in the environment for a very long time (hundreds of years) and will cause problems of waste generation and waste accumulation. 

Since Nylon is derived from coal and petroleum, its production and use are also linked to GHGs emissions and environmental phenomena such as global warming. 

Conclusion

It is concluded that BPA-free nylon is not biodegradable because it is a synthetic polymer made from coal and petroleum. 

BPA-free nylon is better off than conventional nylon which contains BPA because BPA is linked to a number of health risks and complications such as cancers, mutations, skin diseases, hormone disruptions et cetera.

Since Nylon is made from petroleum-derived products and also at the expense of non-renewable resources, it is linked with GHGs emissions and environmental anomalies like global warming et cetera. 

Frequently Asked Questions: Is BPA-free nylon biodegradable?

Are all forms of nylon non-biodegradable?

No, some forms of nylon are actually biodegradable. Examples may include nylon made from plant sources and nylon 2-nylon 6. 

Is BPA biodegradable?

Yes, BPA is found to be readily biodegradable in water by the action of microbes. 

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.
  • 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.
  • Manikkam, M., Tracey, R., Guerrero-Bosagna, C., & Skinner, M. K. (2013). Plastics-derived endocrine disruptors (BPA, DEHP and DBP) induce epigenetic transgenerational inheritance of obesity, reproductive disease and sperm epimutations. PloS one, 8(1), e55387.
  • Burkinshaw, S. M. (1995). Nylon. In Chemical Principles of Synthetic Fibre Dyeing (pp. 77-156). Springer, Dordrecht.
  • Shimao, M. (2001). Biodegradation of plastics. Current opinion in biotechnology, 12(3), 242-247.

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