Jareau Cordell was in for a surprise. The 24-year-old Dixie State College student was working on an independent study project on the effects of bisphenol A (BPA) in plants. He thought his results would be interesting, but he didn't realize they would be groundbreaking.
BPA is in the news a lot these days. It's a chemical commonly used in plastics that has been linked to a number of human health conditions such as hormone disruption, infertility, asthma development and nervous system damage.
So when Cordell put together an independent study project to study the effects of BPA on plant growth, he thought it would be a rather cut-and-dried case. He thought the plants exposed to BPA would die — but they didn't. In fact, they were bigger and broader than the plants in the study that were not exposed to the chemical.
With the help of his biology professors, Cordell tested 144 plants — green beans and Indian mustard seeds. Cordell said the control groups were watered using tap water. The rest of the plants were watered using water heated in a microwave in a plastic baby bottle Cordell bought from a dollar store.
Assistant professor David Jones said this experiment shows that the plants are taking up the BPA-infected water and holding it. Jones doesn't think Cordell's results indicate that BPA might be good for plants.
"I don't think this is a positive thing — I think it's a dangerous thing," he said in an interview with Utah's The Spectrum newspaper.
Since receiving the test results, Cordell has contacted the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. They are apparently eager to see his data.