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Use of endocrine disrupting chemical BPS in thermal paper is increasing, but where’s the action?

On March 27th CHEM Trust published the “Toxic Soup” report, which examined how industry is being allowed to replace the well-known hormone disrupting chemical bisphenol A (BPA), with very similar chemicals that may also be harmful, for example bisphenol S (BPS).

The day before we had sent letters to the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the European Commission’s Health Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis, calling for accelerated regulatory action on the bisphenols group of chemicals.

We have received replies to all three letters, and new research from ECHA has found that the amount of BPS used in producing thermal paper is increasing rapidly.

Replies to our letter

The European Chemicals Agency ECHA

In ECHA’s reply to our letter, they state:

“Your report is very timely as ECHA is continuing to monitor the trend towards substitution of BPA with BPS or other substances in thermal paper”

They also point out that BPS is being evaluated by Belgium (we mentioned this in the Toxic Soup report):

“the Belgian Competent Authority is currently carrying out a substance evaluation on BPS and is waiting for test data from the registrants, due by 20 September 2018, as per ECHA’s Member State Committee’s request. The substance evaluation will go some way to demonstrating the hazard profile of BPS and if further regulatory action is required. The applicability of this information to the other Bisphenols will also need to be determined.”

They immediately agreed to a meeting with CHEM Trust to discuss bisphenols and grouping within REACH; this meeting has already happened. We had a useful discussion on the options for regulating bisphenols (not just BPS) and the work that ECHA is doing in this area.

European Commission Health Department

In his reply to our letter Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis, who heads up the European Commission department responsible for chemicals in food contact materials, states that:

“DG SANTE has had some preliminary discussion with EFSA concerning bisphenol S (BPS) and will continue to follow closely the work being undertaken by ECHA”

His letter does not mention any specific work on BPS or any of the other bisphenols except BPA.

On a related issue, the review of the inadequate EU rules on chemicals in food contact materials, Commissioner Andriukaitis thanks us for our comments on the Commission’s road map for this process and states that “I can already indicate that the consultation activities will start in the autumn.”

European Food Safety Authority, EFSA

In his reply to our letter, Dr Bernard Url, the Executive Director of EFSA, states:

“With regards to BPS, which is on the authorised list for use in plastic food contact materials, EFSA has had some preliminary discussions with the European Commission on this substance, and it is currently under assessment by ECHA”

The use of BPS in thermal paper is rapidly increasing

New research from ECHA has found that the amount of BPS used in producing thermal paper (e.g. till receipts) is increasing rapidly, with the volume doubling between 2016 and 2017.

As we discuss in the Toxic Soup report, the EU’s decision to phase out BPA in thermal paper without also restricting the use of alternative bisphenols is likely to create such ‘regrettable substitution’.

Other progress on grouping

ECHA have also published their annual report on their “Roadmap for SVHC identification and implementation of REACH risk management measures”, which confirms that they are starting to focus more on groups:

In the context of screening, authorities have moved to address groups of structurally similar substances rather than single substances. This will ensure that a bigger share of all registered substances are addressed, including substances on which information on hazard and exposure is lacking. In addition, this ensures that substances of low priority for further work but of relevance for substitution (e.g. substances currently not registered, or registered only for intermediate uses) are considered. This will increase consistency of the authorities’ work and support better informed substitution by industry.

Our response

Dr Michael Warhurst, Executive Director of CHEM Trust, said:

It is good news that the chemicals agency ECHA are continuing their work on BPS and are looking at how to address other bisphenols. However, as we point out in the Toxic Soup report, in our view there is a need for immediate regulatory measures on bisphenols as a class. The new data showing a rapid increase in the use of BPS in thermal paper adds to the urgency for new controls.

We are disappointed that the EU’s Health Commissioner and EU food agency EFSA only describe ‘preliminary talks’ on BPS. ECHA’s Risk Assessment Committee stated in 2015 that BPS is suspected of having many of the same adverse health effects as BPA. In addition, the replies from both these bodies neglect the problems posed by other bisphenols

  • Our letter from the Health Commissioner has been covered by Politico Pro