Study: Fast, effective method removes 99% of BPA from water within 30 minutes
Carnegie Mellon University chemist foresees lowering BPA exposure around the world
Bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical used in the production of many plastics, is present in many water sources around the world. In a recently published study, chemists at Carnegie Mellon University conclude that certain catalysts called TAML activators, combined with hydrogen peroxide, can break down harmful chemicals, such as BPA, present in water.
By using the TAML activator-hydrogen peroxide combination, a team led by Terrence J. Collins, a researcher and Teresa Heinz Professor of Green Chemistry at Carnegie Mellon, was able to develop a highly effective and inexpensive solution that removed 99% of BPA within 30 minutes, while maintaining a near-neutral pH, which is an important consideration since it is the norm in wastewater treatment plants.
What Is BPA, and Is It Dangerous?
For many years, plastic manufacturing companies have used large quantities of BPA to produce clear and hard materials including polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins. Polycarbonate plastics are present in a number of food and drink containers, including water and baby bottles, food storage containers, CDs, medical devices, and more. Epoxy resins are widely used, including as liners for water supply pipes, and as coatings for food and beverage cans.
In the past couple of decades, researchers have found that BPA can easily leach into food and drink from materials made with polycarbonate or epoxy resins. Human exposure to BPA is widespread: The 2003-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III) concluded that BPA was present in 93% of the subjects tested.
The NIH study was the start of many more studies on the effects of BPA on the human body. Researchers concluded that BPA is an endocrine disruptor, and therefore has the ability to change the way the body’s hormones function by mimicking estrogen, one of our own natural hormones. Several studies have shown that this hormone-mimicking ability can affect the brain and nervous system development in both humans and animals. It can also affect the reproductive system, fetal development, the onset of puberty, as well as metabolism and growth.
The Effects of BPA in Water
Since BPA can easily leach from polycarbonate or epoxy resins present not only in dwellings, but also many commercial facilities, it contaminates human-generated wastewater as a result. Because of BPA’s chemical composition and structure, wastewater treatment plants are unable to remove all traces of it from wastewater at a reasonable cost before releasing it into freshwater sources. In addition, BPA has many other opportunities to reach surface water without ever going through water treatment, including via industrial waste streams and landfill runoff.
Once marine animals like fish absorb BPA molecules into their bodies, they can affect humans who eat them. Because BPA can continue to pollute the environment and the food chain via an ongoing cycle of consumption and disposal, it is essential to develop methods to remediate BPA pollution.
More and more countries are banning the use of BPA in manufactured products, yet Collins said:
There is no escape from BPA — for any living creature. The massive global use of BPA burdens an already overstrained water treatment infrastructure and most BPA water releases simply never reach a water treatment facility.
Collins concludes that landfills and industrial facilities could easily implement this cleaning method to remove BPA from runoff water.
Because TAML/hydrogen peroxide treatment eliminates BPA from water so easily at concentrations that are similar to a variety of waste streams including paper plant processing solutions and landfill leachate, assuming the lab studies transfer to the real world, we can now offer a new and simple procedure for reducing BPA exposures worldwide.