Bisphenol A (otherwise known as BPA) is an industrial chemical that’s been used since the 1960s, but it started to garner attention only within the last few years — particularly in regards to the reusable water bottles meant to keep us hydrated on the go. But while many of us have been totally focused on buying BPA-free water bottles, we may have completely overlooked the fact that BPA may already be in our water source. Now, Carnegie Mellon researchers have developed a method that can remove 99% of BPA in only 30 minutes, making it possible to obtain truly clean water in record time.
BPA can be found in everything from DVDs to paper receipts, and even in the epoxy resins on our city streets. Epoxy can last for anywhere from five to 10 years, depending on traffic exposure, which is generally good for our cars. However, BPA is also notorious for seeping into the world’s water sources and has been linked to high blood pressure, heart disease, and even poor nervous system development. Since only 1% of all the Earth’s water is suitable for drinking, most people rely on the filtered water that comes through their home’s taps or that they buy at the supermarket. But regardless of where you get your water, it likely has some BPA in it, due to the way in which it’s filtered. So chances are that the water you believe to be completely clean isn’t as harmless as you’d think.
Carnegie Mellon researchers have partnered up with other scientists from Oregon State University and the University of Auckland to come up with a solution. After 15 years of development, they’ve finally found a way to remove nearly all BPA from large quantities of water in a fast and inexpensive way. The technique involves the use of hydrogen peroxide and engineered catalysts (called TAML activators), which, when combined, break down harmful chemicals like BPA. In Green Chemistry, the researchers noted that tens of thousands of tons of water can be treated this way with just one kilogram of the catalyst.
Now that the technique has been proven to work in the lab, lead researcher Terrence Collins expresses his optimism for real world applications.
In Green Chemistry‘s published paper, Collins says, “If this chemistry, conducted in pure lab water, transfers to much dirtier real-world situations with similar BPA concentrations, such as landfill leachates and paper recycling streams, then this work could help reduce aquatic contamination by BPA. The ball is in the BPA industry’s court.”
Collins notes that “there is no escape from BPA — for any living creature,” so until the Carnegie Mellon technique attains widespread availability, you may want to give additional consideration to your water source. Experts recommend that you use a water filter that can remove BPA or at least chlorine (which bonds to BPA during the normal filtration process). It may also be beneficial to avoid purchasing bottled water that’s been stored on shelves for long periods of time, as BPA is more likely to leach into the water over lengthier periods.
Alternatively, you could invest in a pricey Ecomo Bottle, which tests for contaminants in water and removes any it finds within five seconds. According to the developers, users are able to fill up a water bottle from virtually any source (even a scummy pond or toilet bowl) and shake it to activate its testing mechanism. Depending on its contamination rating, the user can then reduce contaminants by up to 99.9%. While Ecomo doesn’t specifically say it removes BPA, it does remove chlorine, which can be a step in the right direction. The bottle also reminds users when to drink to stay hydrated. In numerous ways, methods like these are a lot healthier — and more eco-friendly — than buying an endless supply of plastic water bottles at the corner store.
These developments prove that even if we think the water we’re drinking is perfectly safe, it’s likely that our H20 contains a lot more than we once assumed. And since not even the bottled water we can purchase at the grocery store is undoubtedly free of contamination, most people will need to start paying closer attention to not only their hydration levels but what’s actually keeping them hydrated.