Bisphenol A

 

Bisphenol A

Bisphenol A (BPA) is an industrial chemical that has been commonly used since the 1960s. Most of it is used to manufacture polycarbonate plastics and resins. It is one of the most well-known substances in a bigger family of bisphenols with similar chemical structures and uses.

Due to its hazardous properties, the use of BPA has been limited or is being limited in the EU to protect people's health and the environment.

Where can you find it?

BPA has been used in polycarbonate plastic and epoxy resin for decades.

Polycarbonate plastic is strong and tough material that can be moulded at certain elevated temperatures. Products made of polycarbonate plastic include common consumer goods, such as re-usable plastic tableware and bottles for drinks, sports equipment, CDs and DVDs.

Epoxy resins containing BPA are used to coat the inside of water pipes and the inside of cans for food and drink to increase their shelf-life and avoid getting a metallic taste on the food or drink.

What are the concerns?

BPA may damage fertility and has been identified as a substance affecting the hormonal systems of people and animals. In addition, it damages eyes and may cause allergic skin reactions and respiratory irritation.

What is the EU doing?
 
Harmonised classification and labelling
 
Bisphenol A is classified in the EU as a substance that:
  • causes toxic effects on our ability to reproduce (Repr. 1B);
  • may cause respiratory irritation (STOT SE 3);
  • causes serious eye damage (eye dam. 1); and
  • may cause skin allergies (skin sens. 1). 
Companies that supply BPA in the EU must classify and label the substance – as well as any mixtures containing it – according to the harmonised classification. This is to ensure that people and the environment are protected, and that safe handling and use is promoted through consistent labelling that reflects the potential hazards.
 
In addition to the existing classifications, the German authorities have proposed additional harmonised classifications covering hazards for the aquatic environment (aquatic acute 1 and aquatic chronic 1). ECHA’s Committee for Risk Assessment (RAC) supports the proposal, and its opinion has been sent to the European Commission for decision.
 
Grouping approach and REACH restrictions
 

BPA has been restricted as a substance on its own and in mixtures intended for consumer use in the EU since March 2018. Its use in thermal paper has been restricted since January 2020. However, companies have commonly used bisphenol S (BPS) to replace BPA in thermal paper which is a concern as it is also suspected to affect human reproductive and hormonal systems.

To avoid similar situations where one hazardous bisphenol is replaced with another that may be equally hazardous, ECHA and the Member States have assessed the regulatory needs of 148 bisphenols as a group. Uses of the assessed bisphenols range from intermediates to thermal paper, inks, coatings, adhesives and textiles.

To protect people and the environment, the assessment found that 34 bisphenols need to be restricted as they may interfere with hormonal systems and affect reproduction. This number may change as more information is generated for these and other bisphenols that were lacking data.

Three bisphenols (BPA, bisphenol B (BPB) and 2,2-bis(4'-hydroxyphenyl)-4-methylpentane) have already been identified as substances of very high concern (SVHCs).

SVHC identification or harmonised classification and labelling is proposed for further bisphenols where sufficient information on hazards is already available. However, for many group members, more data needs to be generated before potential endocrine-disrupting and reprotoxic properties can be confirmed.

German authorities are already preparing a proposal to restrict the use of BPA and other bisphenols with endocrine-disrupting properties for the environment. Once it is more clear which bisphenols the German proposal will cover, ECHA will consider any further needs for regulatory action on bisphenols.

Coordination is also needed with the planned restriction of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) as bisphenol AF and its eight salts are also defined as PFASs.

In addition, the French and Swedish authorities have proposed to restrict over 1 000 skin sensitising chemicals in clothing, footwear and other articles with a similar skin contact. BPA and other bisphenols which have been identified as skin sensitisers, would be included in this restriction.

Restrictions in food contact materials
 
BPA can be used in materials that come into contact with food in the EU. However, only a limited amount (0.05 mg/kg) is allowed to leach from the material into food. 
 
BPA has been banned in infant feeding bottles across the EU since June 2011 and in plastic bottles and packaging containing food for babies and children under three years since September 2018.
 
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) is re-evaluating the risks to public health related to BPA in foodstuffs and plans to finalise the updated assessment in 2022.
 
Toy safety
 
There is a limit on the amount of BPA that is allowed to leach out of toys for children up to the age of three and in any toys that are intended to be placed in a child’s mouth. This migration limit is 0.04 mg/l of BPA.