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Science: Pay attention to two other messages in the breakthrough BPA water treatment paper.

It's plausible no living multi-cellular organism on this planet is BPA-free. And the levels we're living with could be causing harm.

Science: Pay attention to two other messages in the breakthrough BPA water treatment paper


Stephen Arnold

It's plausible no living multi-cellular organism on this planet is BPA-free. And the levels we're living with could be causing harm.

Aug. 8, 2017

By Pete Myers

Environmental Health News

Follow @petemyers

I want to call your attention to some important details in the latest research from Terry Collins' green chemistry laboratory at Carnegie Mellon University. We covered the main story last week: There now exists economically viable, efficient technology to remove BPA and a host of similar chemicals from water.

But the paper has two additional sections that make it even more important.  Collins's team wrote two mini-reviews to help chemists—the primary readers of the journal Green Chemistry, where the paper was published—understand what’s the big deal.  The water-treatment breakthrough is the meat, so to speak, between two pieces of bread.  But that bread—the two reviews—has profound implications.  Given how siloed science is, it was not safe to expect that chemists not specializing in endocrine disruption would immediately grasp this. Collins and his team lay it out in stark terms.

A dose of BPA one half of the level that EPA considers safe—and that is easily within the range of everyday exposure—caused many adverse effects.

The first review assesses the environmental occurrence of BPA.  It is stunningly ubiquitous, at a scale even I didn’t appreciate.  Collins thinks it’s plausible that no living multi-cellular organism on this planet is without BPA contamination.

The second mini-review examines the evidence on low dose toxicity of BPA.   I knew most of that material. For those who haven’t thought much about this or followed the ins and outs of the emerging evidence, it, too, is stunning:  For example, in 2013 University of Missouri's Brittany Angle and others published results showing that multiple aspects of metabolism are disrupted in adult mice following exposure to their mother while they were in the womb. High doses of BPA did not cause an effect, but a dose of BPA that is one half of the level that EPA considers safe—and that is easily within the range to which many people are regularly exposed—did cause many adverse effects.  

Thus, as often happens with BPA and other endocrine disruptors, most of the outcomes showed "inverted-U" dose response curves, meaning that they would not have been detected by standard regulatory testing.

Together, the two reviews make the case that this is a global problem, probably not just for individual organisms affected but also, by implication, for ecosystem function. Given that BPA is an "environmental estrogen," it could be contributing to the global decline in sperm count, among other things—something we're already seeing, as I reported last month.(4)

Pete Myers is the founder and chief scientist of Environmental Health Sciences, nonprofit publisher of EHN.org and DailyClimate.org.

EHN welcomes republication of our stories, but we require that publications include the author's name and Environmental Health News at the top of the piece, along with a link back to EHN's version.

For questions or feedback about this piece, contact Brian Bienkowski at bbienkowski@ehn.org.

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