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Safe by natural design: benign bisphenols from biomass


Stef Koelewijn
KU Leuven

ABSTRACT: Bisphenol A (BPA), a crucial aromatic diol for the manufacturing of polycarbonate plastic (~65%) and epoxy resins (~30%), is one of the highest-volume chemicals produced worldwide (5.4 Mt.a-1 in 2015 and forecasted to reach 7.3 Mt.a-1 by 2020). Yet, BPA has come under close scrutiny when evidence for environmental leaching was found in 1993. BPA leaching, together with its (long-known) ability to interfere with the natural oestrogen receptor (i.e., endocrine disruption), links BPA to possible health issues upon exposure during critical developmental periods. Public awareness, and the negative connotation associated with BPA, demand a shift towards safer alternatives. Shortages in aromatic feedstock further stress the need to replace petro-based phenol precursors by bio-based aromatics. This context provides an ideal opportunity to design endocrine disruption out of the next generation of bisphenols.