Corrected: INSIGHT: As consumers know more, bans loom

13 March 2012 16:39  [Source: ICIS news]

Correction: In the ICIS news story headlined “INSIGHT: As consumers know more, bans loom” dated 13 March 2012, please read in the ninth paragraph … the French National Assembly proposal to ban BPA in all food contact applications in France from next year is already hitting coatings makers … instead of … “The ban on BPA in food packaging in France from next year is already hitting coatings makers …. A corrected story follows.

By Nigel Davis

LONDON (ICIS)--Five years ago it was baby bottles; now it is soup can linings and wine barrels. As everyday articles come under closer scrutiny for the chemicals they contain, get ready for a stronger push back from consumers and major retailers.

Companies active in numerous petrochemical and polymer value chains are feeling the impact of broadening chemical knowledge and the increased apparent effectiveness of campaigners targeting industrial chemicals.

Not so long ago the bisphenol A (BPA) used to make polycarbonate grabbed wide public attention. Consumers turned away from polycarbonate baby bottles and sports drink containers and sought alternatives.

Now it is the turn of the epoxy coatings used in some food contact applications – including soup cans – which also might leach BPA, a widely used chemical that has been linked to a range of adverse health effects, even at low doses.

Industry has sought to defend the products made with or containing BPA but has been fighting a losing battle.

The polycarbonate baby bottle was replaced with both high- and low-cost (and quality) polymer and glass alternatives.

Companies such as soup maker Campbell’s have been looking at alternative can linings – used to better preserve the can’s contents – for a number of years while defending the efficacy of the linings currently in use. But the tide for BPA has turned fast.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has agreed to rule on the safety of the chemical by 31 March following a legal challenge from pressure group the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). The FDA had earlier raised its own concerns about the effect of BPA on young children.

The French National Assembly proposal to ban BPA in all food contact applications in France from next year is already hitting coatings makers, including suppliers to the country’s wine growers – epoxy resins are used to coat the insides of some wine barrels.

The French supermarket chain U has new television adverts saying that it has banned the use of BPA in products on its shelves.

Packaging accounts for between 3% and 5% of global BPA usage, industry sources say, which would be worth up to $1bn (€760m) at current BPA prices. The volumes of BPA finding their way into epoxy linings for cans, beer kegs, wine barrels and the like will be much less but increasingly influential.

The wider understanding of what chemicals are present in everyday goods is challenging producers, retailers and consumers.

Certain chemicals are used in certain applications because they perform well at the right price but increasingly their environmental impact is becoming the arbiter of choice.

Retail firms, and their customers, are becoming more aware of the variety and the sheer number of man-made chemicals that they are being exposed to.

It is telling that the European Chemical Agency (ECHA) earlier this March for the first time published information on articles on the EU market that contain “substances of very high concern” (SVHC) – chemicals that are carcinogenic, mutagenic or toxic to reproduction, persistent and/or bioaccumlative.

More often than not plastics, the articles include cables, bags, packaging material, waterproof garments and PVC flooring as well as foams containing certain flame retardants, the ECHA says. The agency has gathered the data from information provided by companies when registering for Reach.

Most notifications of the presence of SVHC in articles relate to the presence of four phthalate plasticisers, while the second most common notification is of the brominated flame retardant (HBCDD) which, the ECHA says, is persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic.

“This substance can be found in articles used by the construction and building sectors such as plastic panels for the thermal insulation of buildings. It has also been notified in polystyrene foam used for packaging and in the plastic housing of electronic appliances,” the agency adds.

“ECHA is providing this information to add to the general increase in knowledge on the use and presence of hazardous substances in consumer articles,” it says.

“It is also to remind importers and producers of their legal obligations, under certain conditions, to notify when their articles contain substances on the Candidate List [a list of substances, largely SVHC, that are likely to be regulated under Reach].”

The EU’s Reach regulation puts the onus on industry to notify first the agency and through it the general public, of the chemicals to which they might be exposed.

“Consumers are reminded that they have the right to know when substances on the Candidate List are present in articles that they want to buy,” the agency says.

"They have the right to ask the retailer this and to receive an answer within 45 days.”

($1 = €0.76)


By: Nigel Davis
+44 20 8652 3214



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