This news is very timely given my article on Bisphenol-A published today on ICIS Chemical Business. Let's go first to the EPA news before I discuss my article.
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced today that it plans to add BPA on its list of chemicals of concern, which will require its further testing related to its environmental effects. The EPA says it shares the FDA's (US Food and Drug Administration) concerns about the potential human health impacts of BPA, and that it would also study its potential effects and ways to reduce BPA exposure in food packaging. BPA releases to the environment is said to have exceed 1m pounds/year, according to the EPA.
Under the EPA's new BPA Action Plan, the agency will also require manufacturers to provide test data in evaluating BPA's possible environmental impacts such as long term effects on growth, reproduction and development in aquatic organisms and wildlife. The EPA will also look for possible substitutes under the the agency's Design for the Environment (DfE) program.
US BPA manufacturers include Bayer, Dow Chemical, Hexion and SABIC Innovative Plastics, which have an estimated combined 985,000 tonnes/year of BPA production capacity, according to ICIS News (this link requires subscription).
The EPA reports that BPA production volume in 2007 is estimated at 2.4 billion pounds, valued at almost $2 billion. Polycarbonate resins, as of 2007, consumes 74% of the BPA market followed by epoxy resins (20%) and others such as flame retardants, polyehterimides, polyacrylates, polysulfone resins, unsaturated polyester resins (6%).
The EPA says it does not intend to initiate regulatory action under TSCA (Toxic Substances Control Act) at this time on the basis of human health although it will work with the FDA to identify and assess potential substitutes to the extent that FDA may identify health concerns from BPA in food contact materials.
If you check out my BPA article, alternatives to BPA-based polycarbonates (PC) resins such as high density polyethylene HDPE, metallocene polypropylene (PP), polyethylene (PE) naphthalene, polyethersulfone, and Eastman Chemical's Tritan copolyester are already wide-spread. Since Eastman launched its Tritan in the infant care market in October 2008, the company said sales quadrupled during the past 12 months.
Alternatives to BPA-based epoxy resins are difficult to find however, according to Michael Brown, president of Delaware-based consulting firm StrategyMark. He cited polyester, polyacrylate, alkyd resins and polyvinyl chloride [PVC] organosols as possible alternatives, although he notes their substantial trade-offs in cost, processability, potential capital investment for the can maker, and even possible health issues.
Brown also made an interesting comment that some can coating suppliers already have the BPA-free epoxy technology ready to deploy but in general have not had to do so.
"Having the technology in the hands of the formulators (Valspar, AkzoNobel, PPG) and motivating can makers (such as Ball and Crown) to use them are two very different things," said Brown. "The production speeds of cans are incredibly high and tiny differences in coating applications can have very big consequences. The willingness to change technologies is very low."Well... given the EPA's recent focus on BPA, this low interest might change dramatically!
Next post is my full Q&A interview with StrategyMark's Michael Brown.