This is a huge deal for our environment and human health too, as it is necessary for the strict EU level regulation of endocrine disruptors in the future.
The Member State Comitee of the European Chemicals Agency (Echa) unanimously agreed that bisphenol-A (BPA) is an endocrine disruptor, thus it is a substance of very high concern (SVHC). BPA is already listed due to its reproduction toxicity properties. At the MSC meeting members unanimously agreed on its additional identification as an SVHC because of its endocrine disrupting properties which cause probable serious effects to human health which give rise to an equivalent level of concern to carcinogenic, mutagenic, toxic to reproduction substances.
The green law group ClientEarth which contributed to a 20-year battle against BPA, said the decision was “historic” and called for rapid action by the authorities. Now BPA is finally recognised as an endocrine disruptor, the EU and national governments must act fast to limit the irreversible damage this chemical does to people and the environment,” said ClientEarth’s lawyer Alice Bernard to the Guardian.
An omnipresent chemical
BPA is one of the world’s best-selling chemicals, with 3.8 million tonnes of the substance produced in 2006, around a third of which was sold in Europe. Originally developed as a synthetic mimic of the female sex hormone oestrogen, it was marketed as an industrial chemical and, in 1957, kickstarted the plastics revolution when it was polymerised with phosgene to produce what is today known as polycarbonate.
More than 90% of the world’s population are thought to have BPA in their urine according to epidemiological studies with one report by the German Federal Environment Agency finding traces in the urine of 591 out of 599 children tested. Which is a huge problem, as many studies linked BPA to a higher risk of cancer, miscarrige and birth defects. Evidence has been mounting that BPA may have adverse health consequences for reproduction, the nervous system, the immune system, as well as for the metabolic and cardiovascular systems. According to a study published in the Nature there’s a link between BPA exposure and the behavior of the children. Descriptive analyses indicated that prenatal exposure to maternal BPA concentrations were related to higher levels of anxiety, depression, aggression, and hyperactivity in children. BPA exposure in childhood was associated with higher levels of anxiety, depression, hyperactivity, inattention, and conduct problems. The EU banned BPA use in baby bottles in 2011, but babies aren’t necessarily safe. An American study tested 59 teethers, most of which was labeled BPA free, and found that all of them contained low levels of BPA among other endocrine disruptor substances.
Natacha Cingotti, a spokeswoman for the Health and Environment Alliance, said that the Echa vote was “long overdue and of crucial importance so that measures to reduce people’s exposure to the substance can be introduced in the future. Endocrine disrupting chemicals that are omnipresent, such as bisphenol A, are one of the defining human health challenges of our times,”
Echa is now expected to recommend constraints on BPA’s use under the EU’s Reach regulation, possibly as soon as next year. NGOs fear that industry groups are likely to challenge the Echa judgement, with the Plastics Europe trade association already opposing Echa’s earlier finding that BPA is toxic to human reproduction.
How to lower your BPA exposure?
Avoiding BPA is hard, as it is used in so many products, and because its presence is often not indicated. It is everywhere: in all kinds of items made of polycarbonate plastics, in thermal paper used for receipts, and epoxy resins that are used to coat food and beverage cans. Unfortunately there’s no regulation at the moment, that requires to label BPA in products. It is most common in plastics labeled „Other”, „7”, or „PC”, altough many times there’s no clue whatsoever.
There are several things you can do to lower the BPA exposure of you and your family.
1. The first line of defence is to avoid the aforementioned plastics, as well as unlabeled ones. Switch to glass, ceramics, or stainless steel instead.
2. Heating further enchances the leaching of chemicals, so if you really need to use plastic, make sure that you only store cold food in it, and to never microwave in it.
3. In the fridge, use beeswax wraps instead of plastic foil.
4. It can be tempting to buy products labeled BPA free, but there’s a catch! Many manufacturers swapped BPA to BPS which is just as dangerous. To make sure you avoid all endocrine disruptors, choose products that are tested for enstogene and androgene activity: like Equa bottles.
5. Eat and drink less canned products, swap them to whole, fresh or dried produce. As a bonus you can buy these from a farmer’s market, or bulk shop, totally plastic-free and zero waste in your own containers!
6. Don’t handle receipts for too long, and encourage your favourite shops to use BPA-free or paperless (online) receipts! Don’t recycle thermal paper, because that leads to BPA pollution in recycled paper products.