Post a commentBy Rory Harrington, 14-Jun-2010
A call by the German environment agency for industry and consumers to find bisphenol A (BPA) alternatives on safety fears is unjustified and should be ignored, said a European plastics body.
The Polycarbonate/BPA Group of Plastics Europe has accused the Federal Environment Agency (UBA) of Germany of misusing the precautionary principle as a basis for urging a cutback in the utilisation of the chemical and causing unnecessary anxiety among industry players and the public alike.
The trade group also charged the UBA with damaging the credibility of the “existing regulatory assessment process as well as the authorities that have led this process, by requesting the substitution of a safe material without any sound scientific justification”.
In its statement last week, the UBA acknowledged that the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the bloc’s Existing Chemicals Programme have declared the chemical is safe for consumers. But it pointed out that regulatory bodies in Canada, Denmark and France have all banned BPA-containing products for children for “precautionary reasons”.
“There’s is still a lack of data but what is already known about Bisphenol A should be sufficient to take decisions on the application of the precautionary principle and limit the use of special products containing Bisphenol A,” added the UBA’s Jochen Flasbarth.
But Plastics Europe said the group’s recommendation to limit exposure to the substance “is a misinterpretation of the underlying reasoning behind this concept”. It said this principle should only be applied if there were significant gaps in the risk assessment because of insufficient or scientific data. It rejected that this was the case for BPA as the extensive data base available meant associated risks could assessed “comparably well”.
“On the basis of this wealth of scientific analysis, experts have concluded that there is no need for further measures for BPA beyond those already in place”, said the BPA group from Plastics Europe.
Experts from EFSA and the US Food And Drug Administration are both currently undertaking major reviews on consumer exposure to BPA to decide if their current positions need to be revised. The European agency is due to deliver its updated opinion next month, while the FDA recommended in January that children’s exposure to the substance be limited and that industry look to find BPA alternatives.
The plastic body also criticised the UBA for seeking to “replace a well-characterised risk with an unpredictable risk”. Provision of scientific data on chemicals, including BPA alternatives, in order to understand the relevant aspects of that substance was a basic pillar of the European safety system, said Plastics Europe.
“The UBA do not appear to have investigated the availability of alternatives,” said the trade body. “Specifically there is no evidence provided that the UBA have meticulously examined the data base and safety of potential alternatives to BPA.”
The group quoted the Swiss health authority, Bundesamt für Gesundheit, as saying: “A ban on BPA would inevitably cause manufacturers of packaging and consumer products (food contact materials) to have to switch to other substances, the toxicity of which is less well known. This would mean a well characterised risk would be replaced with a conspicuously unpredictable risk.”
Product safety is of the utmost importance to the industry, said the BPA/PC group. It added the call from the German regulators had created anxiety, damaged the credibility of bodies such as EFSA “without any sound scientific justification” and should therefore be rejected.