Polycarbonate Resins: The BPA-Free Alternatives Feasibility, a Distant Reality.

Published By: IndustryARC Published On : 06-May-2016

Over the past decade, studies have shown that BPA is widely present in the environment and in our bodies. Bisphenol A (BPA) can be measured in human serum, urine, umbilical cord blood, amniotic fluid and placental tissue. Some studies have suggested that BPA may affect human reproductive and other systems by behaving like human hormones. Manufacturers worldwide use at least 3.6 billion kilograms/8 billion pounds of BPA to make polycarbonate plastic and epoxy resins every year. Many countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom, Japan, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and those in the European Union, have banned the use of BPA in baby bottles and other polycarbonate items produced for babies and toddlers.

As a result, manufacturers have introduced “BPA-free” products made with substitute chemicals such as Bisphenol S (BPS), which is one of the most widely used BPA replacements. However, BPS may not be safer than BPA as two recent studies have found that BPS is as hormonally active as BPA and, like BPA, it interferes with the endocrine (hormone) system in ways that may produce harmful effects, such as obesity, cancer and neurological disorders.

Off all the available alternatives, PMMA is an economical alternative to polycarbonate (PC) when extreme strength is not necessary. It is a transparent thermoplastic, often used as a light or shatter-resistant alternative to glass. Chemically, it is the synthetic polymer of methyl methacrylate. It is often preferred because of its moderate properties, easy handling and processing, and low cost, but behaves in a brittle manner when loaded, especially under an impact force, and is more prone to scratching compared to glass.

Is There a Good Reason to Replace BPA?

In light of the strong scientific and government agency support for the safety of BPA, along with its versatility and high performance, is there any good reason to replace BPA? If safety is the concern, FDA has already addressed it, and the simple answer is no. Replacement of BPA can only be defended for alternatives that, in fact, deliver better performance or are safer than BPA. Given the high performance of polycarbonate plastic and epoxy resins, and the long safety track record of BPA, those challenges will be very hard to meet.

Is DPA Up To the Task of Replacing BPA?

That question is best answered by the marketplace. Although there are a number of considerations to take into account when selecting materials, hard facts should drive the decision with safety and performance at the top of the list. In the case of BPA, the hard facts are that BPA has been determined safe by numerous government agencies worldwide and its performance is tough to beat. For DPA (diphenolic acid, derived from biobased levulinic acid), performance and safety is a work in progress. That should not deter further development of DPA, but it does deserve further attention to avoid a regrettable substitute that compromises product safety or performance.

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