Once upon a time, more than a hundred years ago, a scientist in Germany created a chemical called Bisphenol-A, or BPA.
Around thirty years later, other scientists discovered that BPA was similar to estrogen, the main female hormone of the reproductive system. They thought of using BPA as a synthetic estrogen. But there were better synthetic estrogens, so they didn’t.
Then, in the 1940’s and 50’s, yet other scientists discovered that BPA was a useful chemical after all. They found that it could be used to make all sorts of things, including plastic linings for cans and polycarbonate plastic. Polycarbonate plastic was particularly useful, because it is clear and shatterproof—making it perfect, for example, for baby bottles. Soon BPA was being used in hundreds of different products, from baby and water bottles to bike helmets to dental sealants and medical equipment.
It wasn’t until the 1970’s that laws came into place to regulate the safety of industrial chemicals. And that’s where the BPA story gets interesting. …