Scientific experts from the European Food Safety Authority have concluded that dietary exposure to bisphenol A (BPA), an endocrine disrupting chemical (EDC) found in plastic drinking bottles, food packaging, and other consumer products, is a health concern for consumers across all age groups. EDC-Free Europe coalition notes that policy makers have been warned for more than a decade that BPA and similar substances have serious impacts on health and environment.  

On 19 April 2023, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) published the conclusions of the new scientific assessment on the risks to public health related to the presence of the chemical substance named bisphenol A (BPA) in foodstuffs. The expert panel concludes that people in all age groups including small children are at health risk from BPA in their diet and they recommend to significantly lower the tolerable daily intake (TDI) for BPA at a threshold around 20,000 times lower that the threshold set eight years ago at EFSA’s previous assessment of BPA in 2015. The TDI is the amount that can be ingested daily over a lifetime without presenting an appreciable health risk.

Policy makers have been warned for years that BPA, which is known to mimic the female hormone oestrogen and which has been found to leach from the materials in which it is used, has serious impacts on health and the environment. The EDC-Free Europe coalition calls on the European Commission and member states to now urgently respond to this new assessment and take the necessary measures to minimise these exposures without further delay, in particular from the use in food contact materials and consumer products. Furthermore, EDC-Free Europe calls on EU decision makers, in application of the grouping approach for the management of chemicals, to apply the new TDI recommended for bisphenol A as a temporary TDI for other relevant bisphenols on the market.

Every day, millions of people are exposed to BPA through commonly used consumer products. The substance is produced in huge amounts and widely used to manufacture items such as plastic water dispensers, plastic food storage containers and plastic reusable water bottles. BPA is also used to produce epoxy resins found in coatings and linings for food and beverage cans, and for some medical devices.

BPA has been listed as a substance of very high concern (SVHC) under the EU’s flagship chemicals legislation REACH since 2006 for its properties as toxic for reproduction, and for its endocrine disrupting properties for human health since 2017. In spite of five legal procedures attempted by PlasticsEurope to challenge the decision of the European Chemical Agency (ECHA) to classify BPA as a SVHC for its endocrine disrupting properties, the justification of this categorisation has been confirmed each time by the European Court.

ECHA’s 2017 documentation for the classification of BPA as a substance of very high concern  for its endocrine disrupting properties notes that: “the effects of BPA are associated with conditions that may lead to a reduced quality of life. In particular breast cancers, neurobehavioural disorders and diabetes are observed with high prevalence and increasing trends during the last decades in Europe and raise indisputable societal concern, also in relation to their potential economic burden on the health systems.”

This is leading to the question as to whether hindering progress on regulatory actions or overall inaction to minimise exposure of people and the environment to harmful endocrine disrupting chemicals is violating core human rights, such as the right to life and well being, the right of all children to have the best possible start in life, to grow up healthy, and to develop to their full potential as recognised in the United Nation Convention on the Rights of the Child Article 6 and 24.

Human biomonitoring studies show that there is widespread exposure to BPA as well as to many similarly acting bisphenols that are used as replacements for this chemical. It is important to note that EFSA`s evaluation does not include the risks of exposure to other bisphenols such as BPS, BPF or BPAF, several of which are also identified endocrine disruptors and have shown adverse effects similar to BPA. The story of bisphenol A is a sad case study illustrating the urgency to implement the commitments presented in the 2020 European Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability.

Members of the EDC-Free Europe coalition have raised awareness about the negative impacts on people’s health and the environment of bisphenol A (BPA) for years. Every day of delay to take regulatory actions to limit the exposure of people and the environment to BPA and substances of the same group is a serious cause of concern.