The following is one of a series of case studies produced by the Union of Concerned Scientists' Scientific Integrity Program between and to document the abuses highlighted in our report, Scientific Integrity in Policy Making.
We examine Bisphenol-A BPA as a case that illustrates key challenges in addressing the public health risks of consumer products in the 21st century. First, we trace growing concerns about the effects of BPA on human health, showing how regulatory approaches can exacerbate the difficulty of dealing with the unforeseen risks of chemicals in consumer products.
Second, we highlight the question of who should bear the responsibility — and the cost — of rectifying or preventing unforeseen chemical risks in consumer products.
Third, we discuss the challenge of substituting out a potentially hazardous chemical from consumer products in the context of well-established global production chains and consumption patterns. Utilitarian and deontological ethical frameworks have influenced societal debates surrounding each of these three challenges, creating moral dilemmas for actors with different forms of moral agency — both those implicated in the production of harmful chemicals and those pursuing remedies.
Bisphenol-A, chemicals regulation, ethics, deontology, utilitarianism. Introduction Bisphenol-A is a chemical used in consumer products such as baby bottles, reusable water bottles, and infant formula containers. The substance is found in many other products that require strong, clear glassy materials, such as electronics and food packaging.
Some scientific studies have linked Bisphenol-A BPA to diabetes, thyroid disease, various cancers, and obesity, but experts disagree over whether BPA is causing harm through its ability to disrupt endocrinal functions.
Many chemical and product manufacturers have defended BPA as safe despite concern about the risks of BPA from activists, consumers, and some scientists and researchers.
Some companies have voluntarily replaced their products with BPA-free versions. Governments appear to be similarly torn: In Europe and Japan, government regulators consider BPA safe at current exposure levels, while experts advising the Canadian government concluded the opposite.
The case of Bisphenol-A exemplifies societal debate over industrial chemicals in the 21st century. Over the past fifteen years, public concerns about chemicals embodied in consumer products have grown steadily.
These chemicals can dissipate from products during their use and disposal, and can be absorbed or ingested into human bodies. In earlier decades, public concern and regulators largely focused on chemical risks created in the manufacturing phase, such as factory pollution and hazardous waste. Such risks are still significant.
However, human exposure to consumer products occurs at a much greater order of magnitude: Today there is more attention to the health hazards of toxic chemicals in products, but regulators still struggle with the question of how to define toxicity. The case of BPA exemplifies three key challenges in the chemical industry.
First, tracing the growing concerns about human exposure to BPA shows how regulatory approaches can exacerbate the difficulty of dealing with the unforeseen risks of chemicals in consumer products. Second, the case raises the question of who should bear the responsibility — and the cost — of rectifying or preventing emerging chemical risks in consumer products.
Third, BPA highlights the challenge of substituting a potentially hazardous chemical for a harmful substance in consumer products in the context of well-established global production chains and consumption patterns. Utilitarian and deontological ethical frameworks have influenced societal debates surrounding each of these three challenges.
This article explores how these ethical frameworks raise moral dilemmas for the various actors involved — both those implicated in the production of harmful chemicals and those pursuing remedies: But who has moral agency to advance more sustainable outcomes for the public good?
In the next few sections, we review the history of BPA use in manufacturing products and track the changing science and perceptions of BPA toxicity risks, before turning to discuss the ethical dilemmas of key actors in the BPA production chain.
While reading this background, you should reflect on what responses might be appropriate in a situation in which a chemical risk is not yet fully proven but the chemical is commercially lucrative. A short history of Bisphenol-A BPA — also known as 2,2-bishydroxyphenyl — is a synthetic chemical found in numerous products, including automotive parts, water supply pipes, electronics, baby bottles, and other food containers.
It is one of the highest production volume chemicals in the world. By the s, the global production of BPA reached almost a million metric tons per year and has grown substantially since then Fiege et al. BPA gained commercial success in the polymer and plastics production with two main end markets: For both polycarbonates and epoxy resins, BPA is an important building block with attributes that industry has found difficult to match with substitute chemicals Ritter BPA was first synthesized inbut its commercial production did not begin until the early s, after chemists created the first epoxy resins using BPA in the US and Europe Vogel Epoxy resins are produced by transforming liquid polyethers into infusible solids through a special curing process that reacts epichlorohydrin with BPA.
These resins are versatile chemicals that can be formulated to have a range of mechanical properties from extreme flexibility to high strength and harnesschemical resistance, high adhesive properties, and high electrical resistance.
Epoxy resins became extensively used throughout the manufacturing sector as protective coatings for metal equipment, piping, steel drums, and the interior of food cans. Inchemists at Bayer and General Electric began developing another use for BPA as a monomer feedstock in plastics production Vogel When polymerized with either carbonyl chloride or diphenyl carbonate, BPA forms a plastic called polycarbonate.warninglabels_ThinkstockPhotosjpg The state of California has extended an emergency rule that allows companies to wait until January before placing a warning on the label of food packaging containing the chemical Bisphenol A.
Supposedly, BPA poses a health risk that demands this warning label, under California’s Proposition 65 law.
The science surrounding BPA suggests that exposure to the chemical can have negative impacts on health, especially for infants and children.
While many manufacturers have voluntarily stopped using BPA in their products, BPA was, and remains, present in a wide range of products.
Polymeric Composites Laboratory, Department of Chemical Engineering, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington Search for more papers by this author First published: 22 May Full publication history. Bisphenol-A (BPA) is a ubiquitous endocrine-disrupting chemical.
Recently, many issues have arisen surrounding the disease pathogenesis of BPA. The fabulous story of Bisphenol A (BPA) surrounding this chemical substance in today‟s world.
The narrative surrounding BPA sounds familiar to any risk regulation observer. In particular, the classic story of phthalates comes to becoming one of the most controversial issues in food (packaging) safety around the globe3.
Bisphenol A (BPA) is a chemical that is present in many products including water bottles, dental fillings, and sports equipment. BPA can imitate the body's hormones and can interfere with many.