Plastics industry fear initiatives to ban BPA will create more risks

22 November 2012 15:37  [Source: ICIS news]

LONDON (ICIS)--The plastics industry is concerned that recent initiatives to ban bisphenol A (BPA) in the use of food contact materials will create more risks than benefits, an industry body said on Thursday.

"The BPA value chain is deeply concerned about unilateral national bans on BPA and urges EU authorities to ensure that member states respect existing EU rules and processes on food contact materials," said PlasticsEurope, representing the members of Polycarbonate/Bisphenol A group (PC/BPA-group) and Epoxy Resins Committee (ERC).

BPA is a major ingredient in the manufacture of polycarbonate (PC), a plastic used in the production of food containers, returnable beverage bottles, tableware, storage containers and other food packaging. In the past decade, the possible negative impact of using BPA in food contact materials on human health has come under the microscope globally.

Last year, the French Agency for Food, Environmental & Occupational Health and Safety (ANSES) issued a strong warning against BPA after its own research pointed to the need to prevent exposure to BPA of the most susceptible populations, such as infants, young children, and pregnant and breastfeeding women.

Several plastics industry bodies and chemicals producers have publicly opposed the ban, saying it disregards existing European law and risk assessment, and that using alternatives to BPA could be a riskier prospect because they have not been tested as much as BPA has.

“BPA is the most tested chemical we know and it is so widely used it would be unwise to ban it and replace it with something that is less-tested,” said Richard Northcote, head of global communications and public affairs at Bayer MaterialScience, which is the polymers arm of German petrochemicals producer Bayer, in an interview with ICIS last year.

“During the past weeks France, Belgium and Sweden announced plans to adopt national bans on BPA in all food contact applications (in France) or in food packaging marketed to children less than three years old (in Sweden and Belgium),” said PlasticsEurope.

“These announcements came regardless of the thorough scientific assessments performed by several safety authorities worldwide who have repeatedly confirmed the safety of BPA in food contact uses,” it added.

PlasticsEurope and plastics producers are now concerned that these bans could start a domino effect and result in further restrictions or lead to confusion in other countries.

"There is absolutely no basis for the bans as BPA is not dangerous," a PC producer said.

"The portion of BPA released from [food packaging] is so small it will not affect human health," the producer added.

On 12 October 2012, the French Assembly voted to impose a use restriction on all BPA-based food contact packaging in France, which PlasticsEurope says is confusing and  weakens the European food safety regulation system. The ban will come into effect on 1 January 2015.

"The French decision to switch to a hazard-based approach with respect to BPA, although there is a full EU risk assessment available, creates fundamental confusion about BPA, a substance which is confirmed safe for its intended uses," Plastics Europe said.

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By: Janos Gal
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