How Does BPA Affect the Environment?

It’s natural to be concerned about chemicals like BPA in the environment, but its impact is minimal. It has been demonstrated that BPA efficiently biodegrades in wastewater treatment systems. Any residual BPA that makes it into the environment quickly decomposes and does not accumulate in the environment.

The vast majority of BPA produced is consumed at manufacturing sites and only very low levels of BPA are released to the environment. These releases must be within limits deemed acceptable by permitting authorities.  Measurements of BPA in the environment have confirmed that when detected at all, BPA is present only at very low levels, typically less than a part per billion in surface water.

Numerous validated studies have been conducted to determine what happens to BPA in the environment and the possible environmental impacts.

BPA Readily Biodegrades and is Not Persistent in the Environment

Laboratory studies, using internationally accepted guidelines from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), show that BPA is readily and inherently biodegradable in water, meaning that it breaks down rapidly and does not persist in the environment. Other studies confirm that BPA degrades rapidly in actual surface waters and sediments from a wide variety of regions.

BPA Does Not Bioaccumulate

When biomonitoring studies have detected BPA in streams and rivers globally, typical concentrations are less than 1 microgram per liter (parts per billion). To visualize this concentration, 1 part per billion is equal to 1 drop of BPA in 40,000 gallons or 150,000 liters of water.

Laboratory studies have shown that the potential for BPA to bioaccumulate is well below established thresholds of concern. Based on these studies, BPA is considered by government agencies to have a low potential for bioaccumulation, meaning that it does not accumulate to any appreciable extent in organisms that come into contact with BPA.

BPA is Not a Risk to the Environment at Current Levels

The toxicity of BPA has been measured in a wide variety of aquatic organisms.

Based on these studies, no adverse effects on aquatic organisms are expected at concentrations of BPA in water below 10 micrograms per liter. Comparison of this “no-effect” level with typically measured values in surface waters of 0.001 to 1.0 microgram per liter indicates that aquatic ecosystems are not at risk from BPA in the environment.

European Studies

In 2023, scientists in Germany conducted an analysis on BPA in surface waters by collecting samples from various locations around the country. Their research found that “the average modeled BPA concentration in surface water for the Current A Scenario is 0.053 [micrograms per liter], compared with the modeled future concentration of 0.0037 [micrograms per liter], which represents a 93% reduction. This predicted average surface water concentration is even lower than the lowest limit of detection applicable to all recent monitoring data (LOD = 0.005 [micrograms per liter]). Despite limitations, “the study provides an essential foundation for understanding BPA’s environmental presence and sets the stage for more comprehensive future research.”

The full studies are linked below:

Bisphenol A in surface waters in Germany: Part I. Reassessment of sources and emissions pathways for FlowEQ modeling
Date: 7 July, 2023
Publication: Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management
Authors: Tapperts et al.

Bisphenol A in German watersheds: Part II: FlowEQ model-based characterization of sources and current and future conditions
Date: 11 July, 2023
Publication: Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management
Authors: Bock et al.