Plastics Companies Spar Over Chemical Composition

Eastman Chemical Company and a Texas startup continue to spar over safety labeling in plastics despite a federal court ruling aimed at deciding the issue late last year.

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A Tennessee-based chemical giant and a Texas startup continue to spar over safety labeling in plastics despite a federal court ruling aimed at deciding the issue late last year.

Eastman Chemical Company, a nearly century-old industry icon based in Kingsport, Tennessee, initially labeled its Tritan plastic as free of BPA — which mimics estrogen and has been linked to health problems.

But after a University of Texas scientist had established PlastiPure in Austin, the firm began labeling its products as "EA-free" — that is, free of both BPA and other compounds that mimic estrogen — Eastman added that label to Tritan, as well.

Eastman also sued PlastiPure in 2012 after the Austin company's marketing materials alleged Tritan wasn't entirely free of estrogen-like compounds. After a federal jury sided with Eastman in 2013, a federal appeals court upheld that decision in December.

PlastiPure, has since avoided talking about its competitor or about Tritan plastic in a commercial context; instead, it has published scientific papers linking the two to estrogenic activity in plastics.

Both companies, meanwhile, say their efforts are working amid growing sales of Tritan and an expanded product offering by PlastiPure.

Eastman's Chris Killian said although developing plastic without BPA was unintentional, "none of us could have predicted the magnitude" of consumers' interest in those products.

George Bittner, the University of Texas scientist, said "people are recognizing that it's not the courts that determine scientific questions."

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