17 September 2008 16:32 [Source: ICIS news]
By Nigel Davis
LONDON (ICIS news)--The very ubiquity of bisphenol-A has heightened concerns about its potential negative health effects.
The latest study on the chemical, used widely in can linings and in the manufacture of polycarbonate plastics and some polyvinyl chloride (PVC), links high levels of exposure to cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and liver enzyme abnormalities.
BPA has long been known to be an endocrine disrupter but evidence has mounted of other negative health effects.
That move sparked more debate on the chemical. The chemical industry called for further research on the links between effects on laboratory animals and on humans.
The BPA question has not and will not go away. Regulatory authorities in the
Such lists are mushrooming as the EU’s Reach (registration, evaluation and authorisation of chemicals) scheme comes into effect.
The European Chemical Agency (ECHA) published in July its list of 16 chemicals for which authorisation under Reach would be required. A longer ‘official’ list is expected from the ECHA in October.
Quite rightly the regulatory authorities want to collect all the available data and the opinion of producers and users of these substances to make the best informed decision on authorisation.
In the crudest sense the lists focus attention on a manageable number of chemicals, some in widespread use. They should be used to show that Reach really has teeth.
But, perhaps not surprisingly, a wider group of stakeholders view a greater number of chemicals as a threat either to human health, or the environment, or both.
It is called a “first collaborative effort” to identify substances that meet the official the official Reach criteria for authorisation.
“For chemicals that are carcinogenic, persistent, bio-accumulative, the time for precautionary action is now,” said ChemSec director Per Rosander.
“Companies need to take a proactive approach to replace these known culprits with safer alternatives.”
But exactly what are the alternatives and do we indeed know much about or even need them?
The European chemical industry is clearly worried about the SIN list. It rushed out a press release on Tuesday, the day before a conference to launch the list was due to be held in
It wants to give Reach a chance, European chemicals trade group Cefic said, adding that the SIN list could contribute to confusion throughout the value chain.
“Authorities, NGOs, industries and the supply chains need clarity and reliability and this is precisely why the chemical industry is making every effort to comply with the Reach regulation.”
The plastics industry has long made the point also that BPA is metabolised rapidly in adults. The concerns in
In June, the European Commission and in August the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reconfirmed that they considered products made from BPA to be safe if used as intended.
The trade group Plastics Europe pointed out on Tuesday that the new BPA report’s authors had been careful to caution that their study “does not demonstrate that humans are experiencing adverse health effects at the extremely low levels of bisphenol A to which the general population is exposed, and they conclude that follow-up studies must proceed”.
The chemical industry has until now only periodically faced new questions with regard to some of its most important products and raw materials.
Of concern now, however, must be the fact that more substances are coming under greater scrutiny.
As the Reach scheme becomes better established, it will broaden the chemicals debate which will become more, not less, complex.
Somehow producers and users have to find ways to better explain, to an often sceptical, and not necessarily scientifically knowledgeable, audience, just how their business works.
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