European health officials have announced a gender bending chemical used in a wide range of plastics to be a ‘substance of very high concern’.
Bisphenol A, also known as BPA, has been widely linked to cancer, birth defects and male infertility in recent years.
The decision, made by the European Chemicals Agency, was based on ‘its endocrine disrupting properties which cause probable serious effects to human health’.
Experts have warned that the chemical must now be phased out across the continent to stop any ‘irreversible damage’.
BPA is most widely found in refillable drinks bottles and food storage containers, as well as the protective coatings and linings for food and drinks cans
‘Must act fast’
ClientEarth environmental lawyer Alice Bernard said: ‘Now BPA is finally recognised as an endocrine disruptor, the EU and national governments must act fast to limit the irreversible damage this chemical does to people and the environment.’
BPA is used to make plastics, including materials that come into contact with food, toys and cosmetics.
It is most widely found in refillable drinks bottles and food storage containers, as well as the protective coatings and linings for food and drinks cans.
How is BPA dangerous?
The chemical can enter the body through food that has been kept in packaging containing BPA, handling packaging or even through breathing in household dust.
However, it is not listed on labels so there is no way to keep track of levels of daily exposure.
In both the EU and the US, BPA has been banned from use in babies’ bottles because the chemical can be released if the bottles are heated to high temperatures.
Babies do not have the capacity to remove it from their bodies.
CONCERNS OVER BPS AND BPA
BPS was designed as a replacement for BPA after mounting concerns about the plastic compound’s effect on human health.
But, scientists now believe that BPS is also a hormone disruptor.
WHAT ARE THESE CHEMICALS?
So-called endocrine-disrupting chemicals are found in thousands of everyday products, ranging from plastic and metal food containers, to detergents, flame retardants, toys and cosmetics.
Bisphenol A (BPA) in polycarbonate plastic is used for hard reusable bottles and food containers.
Bisphenol S (BPS) can be found in personal care products, baby bottles and receipts.
WHAT DO THEY DO?
The invisible chemicals cause neurological and behavioral disorders including autism and ADHD.
They also affect IQ.
Their hormone effects may cause cancer, diabetes, male infertility and endometriosis.
But others say there is no risk
However, the Food Standards Agency and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) have said the chemical is not a safety concern.
The most recent statement from EFSA, in January 2015, said there is no risk posed to human health at current exposure levels.
It said the highest estimates for exposure in the diet and from other sources are three to five times lower than the maximum recommended level.
It also said there is no health risk to consumers of any age group, including unborn children, infants and adolescents.
In the US, the Food and Drug Administration’s most recent ruling on the chemical was that it was ‘safe at current levels’.
A report from last year found that children exposed to high levels of BPA in the womb were fatter by the age of seven.
It is feared that the chemical alters the programming of the unborn child’s metabolism, causing problems in the years to come.
As more companies voluntarily stopped using BPA, they turned to the alternative Bisphenol S (BPS).
This was designed as a replacement after mounting concerns about the plastic compound’s effect on human health.
But researchers warned in April that BPS mimics estrogen and may have the same hormonal effects as the so-called gender-bending BPA.