Bisphenol A (BPA) is an industrial chemical that has been used since the 1960s. Most of it is used in plastics, but some is used in resins and a smaller amount in thermal paper.
BPA is used in the manufacture of polycarbonate plastic products, which include a variety of 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.
BPA is also used to develop dye in thermal paper, which is used for shop sales receipts, and public transport and parking tickets.
How the use of Bisphenol A is being controlled
Restricted in thermal paper
In December 2016, the European Commission decided to restrict BPA in thermal paper in the EU. This ban will take effect in 2020, giving manufacturers, importers and users of thermal paper the time to phase it out and find an alternative.
As a result of the restriction, paper manufacturers will need to replace BPA with other dye developers. One potential replacement that is being considered by industry is the chemical Bisphenol S (BPS). However, concerns have been expressed that it may cause similar health problems to BPA. To make sure that one hazardous chemical is not being replaced by another, BPS is currently under substance evaluation and the European Commission has also asked ECHA to further investigate the use of BPS as a substitute for BPA in thermal paper.
ECHA has asked industry to provide annual updates on the use of BPS and other alternative developers to BPA in the manufacture of thermal paper in the EU. More information on the volumes of alternatives used in thermal paper manufacturing can be found from the document available below.
Classified as toxic for human reproduction
Bisphenol A is classified in the EU as a substance that has toxic effects on our ability to reproduce. All manufacturers, importers, or suppliers of BPA must classify and label mixtures containing BPA as toxic for reproduction category 1B by 1 March 2018. This means that companies will be better informed about the potential hazardous effects and how workers can be protected.
Following this classification, the French national authority has informed ECHA that it intends to prepare the case for BPA to be identified as a substance of very high concern. You can follow this process on ECHA’s website where you can see all the proposals for risk management measures.
Restricted in materials in contact with food
BPA has been banned from infant feeding bottles across the EU since 1 June 2011. In Belgium, Sweden and Denmark, it is also banned in other materials that come into contact with food intended for infants and children under three years. France has banned BPA in all food packaging, containers and utensils. BPA is permitted for use in materials that are in contact with food in the EU, however, there is a maximum amount that is allowed to leach out of the material.
Limit in toys
Currently in the EU, 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. That migration limit is currently 0.1 mg/l of BPA.
In July 2016, the European Commission published a proposal to lower that limit to 0.04 mg/l. This new limit should come into force in 2018.
- Use of Bisphenol A and alternatives in thermal paper in the EU [PDF]
- Bisphenol A – information on the substance
- Restriction on BPA in thermal paper
- Current plans to propose BPA as a substance of very high concern
- Advance notice on substances being looked at for risk management
- Law on classification, labelling and packaging of chemicals (9th Adaptation to Technical Progress)
- Commission Regulation updating the harmonised classification of BPA
- Bisphenol A - European Food Safety Authority (EFSA)
- EFSA explains the Safety of Bisphenol A - European Food Safety Authority (EFSA)
- Press release ‘Bisphenol A: EU ban on baby bottles to enter into force tomorrow’ - European Commission
- Toy Safety in the EU - European Commission - DG GROWTH