Bay Not BPA-Free

By Ariel Rubissow Okamoto

“BPA is globally detected in human urine,” says scientist Ila Shimabuku of the San Francisco Estuary Institute. BPA, one of a chemical group called bisphenols, is a clear, stable, durable ingredient in plastic bottles, can liners, cash register receipts and many other things we use and touch every day. In 2017, the RMP collected and analyzed 16 bisphenols (including bisphenol A, or BPA) in 22 water samples from around San Francisco Bay. Concentrations of BPA found were similar to those found in other marine and estuarine environments, and at levels approaching the threshold of ecotoxicity. “It’s an intriguing compound in terms of its mechanism for action on our health,” says the Institute’s lead scientist on emerging contaminants, Dr. Rebecca Sutton, referring to the fact that BPA can disrupt our hormone systems at very, very, very low levels. “A trace of BPA in water can affect wildlife.” High levels of BPS, another bisphenol which may be serving as a “regrettable substitute” for BPA as a product ingredient, were also found.

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About the author

Ariel Rubissow Okamoto is both today’s editor-in-chief and the founding editor of ESTUARY magazine (1992-2001). She enjoys writing in-depth, silo-crossing stories about water, restoration, and science. She’s a co-author of a Natural History of San Francisco Bay (UC Press 2011), frequent contributor of climate change stories to Bay Nature magazine, and occasional essayist for publications like the San Francisco Chronicle (see her Portfolio here). In other lives, she has been a vintner, soccer mom, and waitress. She lives in San Francisco close to the Bay with her architect husband Paul Okamoto.