Mind & Matter


Behind the BPA Ball

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BPA at unsafe levels in canned foods and infant formula. Source: Environmental Working Group.


As I wrote in a piece last year entitled “Controversial Chemicals and Disaster-Preventative Design,” a debate persists in the U.S. about the use of bisphenol-A (BPA)—an established endocrine disruptor and link to cancer—in plastics used for toys, food packaging, and other functions.

While the politically charged argument continues in this country, China and Malaysia have announced plans to ban the substance entirely. Malaysia has set a March 2012 deadline for the termination of the use of BPA in baby bottles, and China has declared a ban on the chemical in all children’s food and beverage containers—start date to be established.

China and Malaysia now join Canada and the European Union in the list of countries banning BPA from products—so what is our reluctance to join them? In an ironic twist of fate, China may soon shun the import of American-made plastics (as opposed to the other way around), declaring concerns for human welfare and environmental health.



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About the Blogger

Blaine Brownell

thumbnail image Minnesota-based architect and author Blaine Brownell, AIA, is a self-defined materials researcher and sustainable building adviser. His "Product of the Week" emails and three volumes of Transmaterial (2006, 2008, 2010) provide designers with a steady flow of inspiration—a 21st-century Grammar of Ornament. Blaine has practiced architecture in Japan and the U.S. and has been published in more than 40 design, business, and science publications. The recipient of a Fulbright fellowship for 2006–07, he researched contemporary Japanese material innovations at the Tokyo University of Science. He currently teaches architecture and co-directs the M.S. in Sustainable Design program at the University of Minnesota. His book Matter in the Floating World was published by Princeton Architectural Press in 2011.