Bisphenol A


Bisphenol A (BPA) is an industrial chemical that has been used since the 1960s. Most of it is used in manufacturing of plastics, but some is used in resins and in thermal paper.

BPA is used as a monomer in the manufacture of polycarbonate plastic. Polycarbonate plastic products 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 under ‘Further information’.

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.

Identified as an endocrine disruptor for human health and environment

Bisphenol A was listed in the Candidate List of substances of very high concern (SVHCs) due to its toxic for reproduction properties in January 2017. In June 2017, ECHA’s Member State Committee supported the French proposal to additionally identify Bisphenol A as a substance of very high concern also 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 (CMRs category 1A or 1B) substances. In January 2018, the BPA entry was updated to reflect an additional reason for inclusion in the Candidate List due to its endocrine disrupting properties causing adverse effects to the environment, as proposed by Germany.

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. EFSA is in the process of re-evaluating the risks to public health related to the presence of BPA in foodstuffs. 

In January 2018 European Parliament's Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety endorsed Commission's proposal to lower the specific migration limit (SML), applicable to plastics, coatings and varnishes for metals and other contact sources of BPA from 0.6 mg/kg to 0.05 mg/kg. It also imposes a ban on bisphenol A in plastic bottles and packaging containing food for babies and children under three years old.

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. However, a lower limit of 0.04 mg/l will apply from 26 November 2018.

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