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Steven G. Hentges holds a Ph.D. in organic chemistry from Stanford University and a B.S. in chemistry from the University of Minnesota. He is the Executive Director of the Read More »

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It’s not hard these days to find stories in the popular media about the presence of various chemical contaminants in our environment.  Included in this genre are stories about trace levels of chemicals in common consumer products, in the air we breathe, and in the water we drink.  Almost inevitably the stories suggest that even minor exposures are harming our health. 

A recent study from French government researchers reported new results on the exposure of pregnant women to more than 100 substances that might be a concern for the health of a developing fetus.  The study examined exposure to various metals (e.g., lead, mercury, arsenic) and many common organic compounds that we might encounter in our daily lives.

Not that many years ago, many reusable food and beverage containers on the market worldwide were made from polycarbonate plastic.  Polycarbonate, which is made from bisphenol A (BPA), is an almost ideal material for these products since its clarity is comparable to glass, making it easy to see what’s inside, and it’s virtually shatter-proof – an important attribute for consumer products that could be dropped. 

With the high level of attention to bisphenol A (BPA) over the years, it’s easy to get the impression that BPA is everywhere and we’re constantly being exposed to high and harmful levels in our daily lives.  You might even have seen BPA referred to as an “everywhere chemical.”   

Based on a recent and fascinating scientific report from Switzerland, you might start to hear demands to eliminate mild mustard from our diet. The Swiss Federal Food Safety and VeterinaryOffice (FSVO) recently reported that mild mustard contains the chemical bisphenol F (BPF). Remarkably, BPF is not a contaminant introduced from packaging or other sources, but apparently isproduced from a component naturally present in mustard seeds when the seeds are processed to make mustard.

As suggested by the name, BPF is chemically very similar to the well-known substance bisphenol A (BPA) and both have been shown to be weakly estrogenic.

It is commonly perceived that natural chemicals are safe while manmade substances may be harmful.  These perceptions, however, if not supported by scientific evidence, can result in risk perception gaps that can cause us to worry more than warranted by the evidence.