The European Commission announced it is placing restrictions on the use of bisphenol A, or BPA, in toys designed for use by children under the age of 3.
The new limit — based on current levels outlined in European Standard EN 71-9:2005+A1:2007 — is “a strict limit” of a 0.1 mg/l migration limit in toys meant for children up to age 3, and for any toys designed for children to place in their mouths.
The limits are already being voluntarily used by the European toy industry. The European Commission says this has helped keep toy-based BPA exposure low when compared to exposure from contact with nonfood items such as cosmetics or dust. This is, notes the government, far lower than the exposure from BPA in the diet, based on information compiled by the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA).
Widely Used Compound
Bisphenol A — commonly referred to as BPA — is a synthetic compound with many uses, including in the production of polycarbonate plastic for electronics, automobiles, CDs and DVDs, and adult food and drink packaging. The addition of BPA to plastic makes it more flexible and shatterproof.
It is also frequently used in container linings; however, this use is under increased scrutiny. It was, for example, once used in the plastic in infant formula packaging in the United States. The plastic acted as a barrier between the formula and the metal or other materials in the container. Infant formula makers stopped using it when questions first arose about its role in fetal health. The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) later moved to ban the use of BPA in infant formula packaging based wholly on the fact that it is no longer used, and not because it is unsafe.
Some studies have reportedly found a link between exposure to BPA and disruption in the human hormone system. The risks these so-called endocrine disruptors pose to human health is a contentious issue among scientists, who have been embroiled in controversy and debate about BPA and other such chemicals.
Consumer and environmental groups have raised concerns about the chemical’s suitability in any food or beverage containers. Concern also has been raised about its use as a coating for cash register receipt paper. Some of these fears are irrational, some scientists have said.
Yet, in a conversation with The New York Times‘s Nicholas D. Kristof, John Peterson Myers, chief scientist at Environmental Health Sciences and a co-author of a study on BPA, said his family had stopped buying canned food and was taking other precautions to limit its BPA exposure:
We don’t microwave in plastic. [...] We don’t use pesticides in our house. I refuse receipts whenever I can. My default request at the ATM, known to my bank, is ‘no receipt.’ I never ask for a receipt from a gas station.
Voluntary End of Use
Most of the bans to date have occurred after manufacturers voluntarily stopped using the substance. This was the case in the U.S., where, although it had not been used for years in baby bottles and sippy cups, the federal government instituted a ban on its use in those items.
The European Commission summarized:
The complex health effects of BPA, including endocrine disrupting effects, are still under scientific evaluation at the EFSA and in other scientific fora. If relevant new scientific information becomes available through the ongoing scientific work, the limit that the Commission has now adopted would have to be reviewed.
Image by Dulcenombre Maria Rubia Ramirez/123RF.
Source: “EU Sets Strict Limit for Content of BPA in Toys Owing to Health Concerns of Children,” SpecialChem, June 27, 2014.
Source: “Bisphenol A (BPA) Strictly Limited in Toys,” European Commission press release, June 25, 2014.
Source: “Public Consultation on the Draft Opinion on Bisphenol A (BPA) — Exposure Assessment,” European Food Safety Authority, September 15, 2013.
Source: “Tests Find Chemical-Laden Receipts at National Retailers,” Environmental Working Group, July 27, 2010.
Source: “Debate Builds over Regulation of Bisphenol A and Other Endocrine Disruptors,” Scientific American, September 20, 2013.
Source: “How Chemicals Affect Us,” by Nicholas D. Kristof, The New York Times, May 2, 2012.