More concerns in bottled water, via Chemistry World

Everyone remember BPA? The stuff your water bottle now proudly proclaims it doesn’t have? There’s a new suspect in town to get flustered over. Bis(2-ethylhexyl) (2E)-but-2-enedioate.

Mugshot of the perp.

Mugshot of the perp.

But the Chemistry World link doesn’t answer a pretty fundamental question: Where’s this molecule coming from? Even the study’s authors skirt around the question a bit. I’d wager it’s a plasticizer: a small molecule added to the plastic in the water bottles to help make it more malleable and processable. The long branched hydrocarbon sidechains are a pretty strong hint. They prevent the plastic molecules (who love to hang out with each other) from getting too tightly packed and cozy, which would end up giving you a brittle inflexible water bottle. (The authors suggest it’s the decomposition product of some other molecule, but it sure looks like a conventional plasticizer to me.)

Because these types of molecules haven’t traditionally been regulated, or even monitored terribly closely, it’s tough to say if its concentration is too little to be much concerned about or not. That’s another reason that the study is nice – we’ve now got some definitive sleuthing that this molecule is in 18 different bottled waters from 13 different companies from varying countries (did I mention that’s how widespread it is, cuz that’s how widespread it is). It’s not possible to say with certainty how this molecule affects your health (Chem World notes that this particular one is not known to produce both the anti-androgenic and anti-estrogenic activities of suspected molecules), BUT it certainly ain’t gonna help your body any.

Original study (open access, woohoo!) here: http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0072472

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‘Science cafes’ feed hunger for technical understanding

Shameless self-promotion time!  It’s my first freelance piece, talking about local science cafes.  Print newspapers are the way of the future, right?

What I do find kind of interesting is all my science friends who I’ve linked this to.  There’s been a lot of surprised excitement when they find out that there are, in fact, science cafes near them.  There’s probably one near you too.