BisphenolA: an endocrine disrupting chemical that alters estrogenic activities

Plan Author

  • Haneulsol Kim, 2016

Fields of Concentration

  • Biochemistry

Sample Courses

Project Description

Self-designed laboratory research on bisphenol-A (BPA) and estrogen receptors.

Faculty Sponsors

  • Todd Smith

Outside Evaluator

  • Francis Carr, University of Vermont


This Plan is a study of how environmental hormones affect the human endocrine system, and how they function as a synthetic estrogen or anti-androgen. It includes a review paper on the history and effects of BPA on human health and a research article based on including a self-designed laboratory experiment on how BPA alters the estrogenic activity in breast cancer cells. The Plan concludes with an exam on biochemistry.


The term “environmental hormone” was first used in May 1997 by Japanese scientists. These compounds are presumed to be a cause of hypogonadism, abnormality, growth impairment and cancer in humans, as well as harmful to ecosystems. In the United States, 73 chemicals are identified as environmental hormones. For example di2ethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP), one of the toxic chemicals used in the manufacturing of plastics, is strictly prohibited in children’s toys and child care products in the United States and Europe Union. There are certain consequences of using plastics that risk human health and environments. Therefore, further investigation of “environmental hormones” is necessary, and consumers need to exercise more caution on using plastic that may have possible hormonal effects.

My results indicated that water samples from commercial plastic bottles, under high temperature, developed cell growth of MCF7 human breast cancer cells, and that the replacements for BPA may be as potent as BPA in mimicking E2. The uncertain origin of the estrogenlike chemical in the water samples pose risk to human health. Although further research is necessary, caution is needed in using plastic material packages under high temperature.

Science is an ongoing process of inquiry. My BPA research is a perfect example of science. During my studies there has been research that supports my thesis, but at the same time I discovered articles that disagree. Science is taking these contradictory facts and questioning them with the scientific method. Any collection of facts we have are used in a process of inquiry to further understand the unexplained. Because of controversies, a collection of facts loses its accuracy and makes the truth hard to differentiate. An ongoing process of inquiry results in deeper and more detailed facts, as well as new questions which lead to new areas of science. Because there are so many unexplored and unexplained parts, science needs this questioning to further its investigations. As our knowledge expands, our awareness of unknown parts of the natural world also expands.