FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

ACS News Service Weekly PressPac: Fri Mar 19 16:42:03 EDT 2010

Hard plastics decompose in oceans, releasing endocrine disruptor BPA

EMBARGOED FOR RELEASE: Tuesday, March 23, 5:30 p.m., Eastern Time

Scientists today reported widespread global contamination of sea sand and sea water with the endocrine disruptor bisphenol A (BPA), and said that the BPA probably originated from a surprising source: Hard plastic trash discarded in the oceans and the epoxy plastic paint used to seal the hulls of ships.

“We were quite surprised to find that polycarbonate plastic biodegrades in the environment,” said Katsuhiko Saido, Ph.D. He reported on the discovery today at the 239th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society, being held here. Saido and Hideto Sato, Ph.D., and colleagues are with Nihon University, Chiba, Japan. “Polycarbonates are very hard plastics, so hard they are used to make screwdriver handles, shatter-proof eyeglass lenses, and other very durable products. This finding challenges the wide public belief that hard plastics remain unchanged in the environment for decades or centuries. Biodegradation, of course, releases BPA to the environment.”

The team analyzed sand and seawater from more than 200 sites in 20 countries, mainly in Southeast Asia and North America. All contained what Saido described as “significant” amount of BPA, ranging from 0.01 parts per million (ppm) to 50 ppm. They concluded that polycarbonates and epoxy resin coatings and paints were the main source. “Marine debris plastic in the ocean will certainly constitute a new global ocean contamination for long into the future,” Saido predicted.


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Organisms live on the decomposing
epoxy and polyurethane plastic paint
used to seal the hull of this ship.
Credit: Katsuhiko Saido
(High-resolution version)