Professor and Student Tackle Dangers of BPA in New Book

Associate Professor of Biology Rebecca Roberts and John Dao, a senior Biochemistry & Molecular Biology major, have contributed to a book titled “Liberation Science: Putting Science to Work for Social and Environmental Justice.”

Associate Professor of Biology Rebecca Roberts and John Dao 2013

Associate Professor of Biology Rebecca Roberts and John Dao 2013

Their chapter is titled “Bisphenol A: Mothers Shouldn’t Have To Be Scientists.”  Bisphenol A is found in many plastic products including baby bottles, toys, water bottles, aluminum can linings, and dental sealants. It can enter the body and act in the same manner as the hormone estrogen.

“Bisphenol A is used in so many products today that it’s important for everyone to be aware of ways to minimize their exposure,” says Roberts, a mother of three young children. She has been active in educating the public about bisphenol A and has been called twice to present expert testimony to the Pennsylvania House of  Representatives regarding toxin-free toddler and baby products.

“The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) banned the chemical in baby bottles in July 2012. However, BPA is so prevalent in consumer products and food packaging materials (even cash register receipts) that everyone should be aware of exposure risks,” she says. “Over time, BPA can leach from containers into food. BPA has been linked to “hormonally disruptive” health problems in animals (like early-onset puberty in females).”  John Dao is studying Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Ursinus College. Before attending Ursinus, he was a student researcher at Drexel University College of Medicine and has presented his research at numerous science fairs and conferences. In 2010, he was appointed to the Philadelphia Youth Commission, a part of city government that represents Philadelphia’s youth in public hearings and gives testimony that reflects the youth perspective.

In their contribution, Roberts discusses her dual roles of raising a healthy baby in a world of plastics that contain bisphenol A, while studying the detrimental health effects of this compound in her research laboratory. Bisphenol A can cause neural, behavioral, and prostate problems, as well as accelerations in puberty. Infants, fetuses, and children are most at risk since the biological processes involved in their ongoing development are especially vulnerable to disruption by bisphenol A.

The science behind bisphenol A and the role of governmental regulatory agencies in monitoring safe exposure levels is discussed in the chapter. Current legislation aimed at reducing infant exposure is presented within the context of the contrasting objectives of those supporting regulatory legislation and the stakeholders in the bisphenol A industry who oppose it.

Roberts is Associate Professor in the Department of Biology and Co-Coordinator of the Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Program where she studies the effect of hormonal regulation of the immune system, with a focus on the roles of estrogen and bisphenol A in Systemic Lupus Erythematosus. She completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard Medical School and became a Visiting Professor at Carleton College in Northfield, MN, where she first became interested in the environmental estrogen, bisphenol A.

The book is available at The Ebook version at