As water treatment plants struggle to keep up with the chemical cocktail heading into our pipes, researchers say they’ve come up with a solution to remove one of the most ubiquitous contaminants—BPA.
There now exists economically viable, efficient technology to remove bisphenol A (BPA) and a host of similar chemicals from water.
2017 Study Conclusion
In developing Green Chemistry, it is important that chemists come to understand the scope of the challenges posed by everyday-everywhere endocrine disruptors (EDs) to the sustainability of both the chemical enterprise and our complex global civilization. The most troubling such EDs, like BPA, invariably hold their protected positions in the economy because of seductive technical and cost performances that enable large, diverse, profitable markets. For sustainable chemicals, the health, environmental and fairness performances also have to be integral components of the value proposition. Understanding the negative performances of unsustainable chemicals helps in mapping the properties sustainable chemicals should not have. Key aspects of this understanding include the knowledge of which chemicals are and are not EDs and are and are not capable of eliciting low dose adverse effects by non-endocrine processes, the extent and routes by which the environment and people are exposed to commercial EDs, the environmental and human health consequences of ED exposures, the methods of assessment of endocrine activity including the TiPED, the mechanisms of the low dose adverse effects, the design approaches to attaining new and replacement chemicals free of such effects, and the stewardship methodologies that are currently deployed or might be deployed to better protect health and the environment from commercial EDs. This BPA case study traverses the appropriate multidisciplinary landscape with emphasis on the integration of chemistry and environmental health science in the development of endocrine disruption-free processes to aid the chemical enterprise and society in reducing BPA exposures. Importantly, the litany of unfortunate facts presented about BPA exposures and health and environmental performances is relieved to some extent by the possibility of reduced releases arising from the TAML/H2O2 technology mapped out in the empirical section.
This experimental component demonstrates that TAML/H2O2 provides simple, effective water treatment methodologies, which depending on the pH, either decompose BPA or isolate it in low solubility oligomers. Both processes require only very low concentrations of TAML activator and H2O2 in further reflection of the remarkable efficiencies of the peroxidase enzymes that are faithfully mimicked by TAML activator and in marked contrast with the much higher relative iron- and peroxide-requiring Fenton processes. It remains to be established whether the current laboratory studies project to real world scenarios. These may include treatment of BPA-contaminated landfill leachates and paper plant processing solutions where the concentrations are similar to those employed in this study. In such scenarios, TAML/H2O2 would present an enzyme-mimicking method which in the case of TAML activator is comprised exclusively of biochemically common elements and has passed multiple TiPED assays that, in contrast with existing real world processes, avoids generation of BPA-contaminated sludges and associated subsequent releases to soil, that does not generate a contaminated adsorbent which must be replaced or regenerated at elevated temperature, that does not generate chlorinated forms of BPA, that does not generate a concentrated retentate, and that is remarkably simple to deploy using very low and cheap chemical inputs with all the positive potential consequences thereof for capital and operating expenses.
Finally, in order to avoid the habit or perception of greenwashing, a realistic perspective is essential to the integrity of green chemistry. We view the sustainability challenges posed by BPA as enormous—the experimental work presented could evolve into a solution for some of these problems but is, by no means, a general quick fix. BPA markets large and small are expanding rapidly, especially as the industry has learned how to produce even more effective replacements for glass and metal products. Huge new markets are developing such as those of plastic glass houses, and even houses, and automobile body parts that are comprised primarily of BPA. In this build-up, BPA’s unfortunate health and environmental performances continue to be given short shrift. Continuation of the present BPA expansion trends without limits, technical corrections and more aggressive stewardship advances of multiple kinds will menace society with an ever increasing oestrogenization of the entire ecosphere.
Sources and More Information
- BPA breakthrough: New treatment takes controversial chemical out of water, EHN, August 2, 2017.
- Science: Pay attention to two other messages in the breakthrough BPA water treatment paper, EHN, August 8, 2017.
- A multidisciplinary investigation of the technical and environmental performances of TAML/peroxide elimination of Bisphenol A compounds from water, pubs, 19th July 2017.
- Feature image credit Leland Francisco.