Bisphenol A (commonly abbreviated as BPA) is a chemical substance often used in the manufacturing of polycarbonate plastics, which are often used in ordinary consumer products. Studies show that BPA is an endocrine disrupting substance.


The European Commission has decided to ban the use of bisphenol A in plastic infant feeding bottles. The ban will take effect on 1 March, 2011.

Use

Bisphenol A is used primarily to make polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins in products like plastic infant feeding bottles, CDs and DVDs, lining on the inside of metal-based food and beverage cans and dental fillings.

Some 1.1 million BPA is annually used in the EU (figures of 2005). The main use is as a raw material for the manufacture of polycarbonate (80 per cent of used quantity) and in epoxy compounds (nearly 20 per cent of used quantity). A small part is used for the manufacture of thermal paper, used in certain types of receipt paper. In that kind of paper, the substance is used in its pure form, not as a raw material.

Bisphenol A is not manufactured in Sweden but is imported as a raw material and in chemical products.

Source: EU risk assessment report (February 2010), Section 2.1.4.

The use in Sweden has been described in a flow analysis (2008). The technical description of the substance gives facts on the substance, the polymers etcetera.

Exposure

Plastics based on BPA may contain small residues of the substance. These BPA residues could to varying extent leak from the plastic product during use. Under certain circumstances, polycarbonate plastics can also regenerate BPA in free form.

Scientific studies show that BPA can be released from plastic products and absorbed by the human body. Since bisphenol A is potentially harmful to health, there may be reasons to minimize the exposure levels of bisphenol A for small children. Above all, long term exposure should be avoided. BPA can also be released from receipts, tickets and other products made of thermal paper.

In the EU risk assessment report, indirect environmental exposure is considered much less important than exposure from food packaging materials.

Source: EU risk assessment report (February 2010). Section 4.1.1.4.2.

The Swedish Chemicals Agency’s assignments

Bisphenol A in plastic products

In august 2010 The Swedish Chemicals Agency and the National Food Agency were assigned to evaluate the need and prerequisites for a national ban on bisphenol A in certain plastic products. The National Food Agency is the competent authority for materials in contact with foods.

The assignment was reported to the Ministry of the Environment on 15 April 2011. In the report no ban or restriction was suggested, but the Swedish Chemicals Agency and the NFA saw the need for more knowledge about human exposure to BPA. Exposure to BPA through cash receipts, plastic toys, childcare articles and water pipes were identified as being important.

Download the summary in English.

Download the whole report in Swedish.

Bisphenol A in thermal paper, toys and childcare articles

In April 2012 the Swedish Chemicals Agency was instructed by the Government to propose a ban on bisphenol A in thermal paper and to carry out a survey of the use of bisphenol A in toys and childcare articles.
A ban on bisphenol A in thermal paper was suggested in a report on 29 June 2012.

Report 4/12 Bisphenol A in receipts (English summary on page 8)

A survey of the use of bisphenol A in toys and childcare articles was published in September 2012.

Report 6/12 Bisphenol A in toys and childcare articles - need to reduce the exposure? (English summary on page 9)

Bisphenol A in water pipes

In December 2013 the Swedish Chemicals Agency, the National Food Agency and the Swedish National Board of Housing, Building and Planning, presented a report about BPA and to what extent it can be released from restored drinking water pipes. In the report a proposal is made that a ban on the use of two-component epoxy for the rehabilitation of tap water pipes is introduced in Sweden. The report was presented to the Swdish Government on 18 December 2013.

Report 7/13 Emission of bisphenol A (BPA) from restored drinking water pipes (English summary on page 9)

 

Rules in EU and other countries

In November 2010, the responsible EU committee approved the European Commission’s proposal for restricting the use of bisphenol A in polycarbonate plastic infant feeding bottles as from 1 March 2011. Marketing and placing bottles on the market will be banned from 1 June 2011 through Regulation (EC) no 1935/2004 on materials in contact with food. Some countries, for example Denmark and France, already have national bans against BPA in baby bottles.

Classification

Bisphenol A is a substance classified as hazardous. The classification is based on effects that can arise if a person is in direct contact with the substance, for example in occupational settings. The classification is given with hazard statements or risk phrases. Every hazard statement and risk phrase has a corresponding code.

Bisphenol A is classified for the following hazards (codes from the new classification, labelling and packaging system, CLP, and the old system, (KIFS 2005:7). BPA can cause serious eye damage (H318, R41 ), respiratory irritation (H335, R37), allergic skin reaction (H317, R43) and is hazardous to aquatic organisms (R52). The substance may also have harmful effects on the human reproduction system (H361f, R62).

Studies show that BPA is an endocrine disrupting substance.

The EU risk assessment estimates that BPA is readily biodegradable in natural fresh waters and in soil.

Source: EU risk assessment report (February 2010). Section 3.1.3.2.

 

Last review
2012-05-23
Created
2011-08-11

Bisphenol A

(updated 2010)


Cas no 80-05-7
Eg no 201-245-8
Synonyms 4,4’-Isopropylidenediphenol, 2,2-Bis(4-hydroxyphenyl)-propane, Diphenylolpropane
Melting pointt 153°C
Boiling point 220°C
Vapour pressure Low, 5,3*10-9 kPa (25°C)
Water solubility 300 mg/L

Bisphenol A, 80-05-7

Bisphenol A (A=acetone) occurs in its pure form as white flakes with a faint phenol-like smell. It is produced in large quantities by a reaction between phenol and acetone.

Bisphenol A is used together with epichlorohydrine for synthesis of bisphenol-A-diglycidylic ether (DGEBA), which is the commonest starting substance for epoxy resin. The resin consists of molecular chains of varying length which are cross-linked in the course of curing to epoxy plastic. Resin can be made fluid or solid by varying ratio between bisphenol A and epichlorohydrine; fluid resins have shorter chains and, consequently, lower than average molecular weight, while resins with longer chains and higher average molecular weight are solid. Epoxy resin based on DGEBA is considered either low- or high-molecular, depending on whether the resin has an average molecular weight below or above about 1,000. Several different types of substances can be used for curing the epoxy resin, but amines are commonest. The curing can be done at room temperature (cold setting) or at higher temperatures, usually 50-150ºC (hot setting).

The low-molecular fluid resins are used in products like adhesive and flooring materials. The more high-molecular solid resins are used in paints and varnishes. 

Thermoplastics like polycarbonates and polysulphones are also produced with bisphenol A as one of the starting substances. Polycarbonates are made of bisphenol A in alkaline water solution into which phosgene is introduced. Their characteristics include high impact strength, hardness, toughness, transparency, resistance to temperatures between about –40ºC and about 145ºC, and resistance to many acids, greases and oils. In addition, they are refractory. The substance is used in everyday objects, both at work and in the home. The polysulphone plastic polyphenylenesulphone (PPSU) can, for example, be made of bisphenol A and 4,4’-dichlorodiphenylsulphone. It can be used in temperatures of up to 150ºC, it tolerates hot water and hot oils and has low combustibility and smoke emission. Transparent aromatic polyesters with good UV resistance and heat resistance up to 150ºC can be made of bisphenol A and phthalic acid. 

Another use for bisphenol A is as an antioxidant in products used in the plastic and rubber industries. Radicals can act in various ways: they can trigger polymerisation or, together with oxygen, form extremely reactive peroxides. Bisphenol A reacts with radicals and forms stable compounds with them. In this way the plastic or rubber is protected from oxidation.

Question :

Why is bisphenol A a concern?

Answer :

Animal studies performed in a way authorities in the OECD-countries agree upon show that bisphenol A may affect laboratory animals and their reproduction at high doses. Many other studies, performed by different universities, imply that the fetus is affected already at very low exposure during the animals’ pregnancy and neonatal period. The studies showing these so-called low-dose effects have been questioned and should be confirmed with further research.


Question :

Why has the Swedish Chemicals Agency been given the assignment to investigate bisphenol A?

Answer :

Based on the studies performed and in consideration of the precautionary principle there may be cause to minimize small children’s exposure to bisphenol A. In short, the precautionary principle means taking action against a suspected risk even when risks have not been proven. The Swedish Chemicals Agency, in co-operation with the National Food Administration, will in their government commission focus on small children’s exposure, and above all long term exposure to low concentrations.


Question :

Which is KemI’s task?

Answer :

The Swedish Chemicals Agency has been commissioned, in co-operation with the National Food Administration, to evaluate the need and prerequisites of a national ban on bisphenol A in certain plastic products. That includes investigating what is known about release of bisphenol A from different types of plastic products and materials.


Question :

What types of products may contain bisphenol A?

Answer :

Bisphenol A is used primarily to produce polycarbonate plastics and epoxy plastics. These plastic materials may contain small traces of bisphenol A, which to varying extent may leak from the material during use. The polycarbonate plastics may also, during unfavourable conditions, regenerate bisphenol A. Polycarbonate is often transparent and can for example be used in baby bottles and in CDs/DVDs. Epoxy plastic can be used in food cans and in dental sealants. Bisphenol A can also be a constituent in thermal paper which is used in, for example, receipts.


Question :

Is bisphenol A included in baby dummies?

Answer :

German authorities have analysed potential leakage of bisphenol A from the soft part of dummies. Bisphenol A was only found in one out of eighteen dummies. According to the manufacturers bisphenol A is not used in the production of the soft parts of dummies of latex or silicone. It has been discussed whether bisphenol A could be present in the hard part of the dummy, given that it could be made of polycarbonate, but the Swedish Chemicals Agency has no reliable information about this.


Question :

In what kind of paper is bisphenol A used?

Answer :

Bisphenol A can be used in thermal paper which is often used for receipts and in queue tickets etcetera that are printed automatically.


Question :

Why is bisphenol A found in receipts?

Answer :

The text on a thermal paper, for example a receipt, is induced by heat. No ribbon or toner is required. Simplified it works like this: the surface on one side of the paper is coated with a fat-like substance, embedding bisphenol A and an invisible pigment. The paper is heated where signs/letters are to appear, which induces the "fat" to melt and bisphenol A to release. Bisphenol A can then function as a weak acid, transforming the invisible pigment to black pigment exactly where the text should appear.


Question :

Does a receipt contain bisphenol A if it turns black when heated?

Answer :

If the paper turns black, it only shows that it is a thermal paper. Thermal paper may contain bisphenol A, but not necessarily. Ask the supplier about the content.


Question :

Is there any exposure from receipts?

Answer :

Thermal paper is declared to contain about one per cent bisphenol A by weight. A Swiss study has shown that small amounts of bisphenol A are transferred to the skin when receipts are touched. The amount is mainly dependent on how much of the skin that comes in contact with the thermal paper. An American study has implied that cashiers have slightly increased concentration of bisphenol A in the urine, which suggests that they are exposed to slightly more bisphenol A than other groups.


Question :

Are there BPA-free receipts?

Answer :

BPA-free thermal paper receipts have been reported. For instance, in receipts that require archives quality, alternatives to bisphenol A may be used. No definite information on the substances used, or about potential risks from the alternatives, is known by the Swedish Chemicals Agency.


Question :

Is waste containing bisphenol A regarded as toxic waste?

Answer :

Yes, if the content of BPA is higher than one per cent. Information in Swedish is available in the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency’s handbook "Farligt avfall - Handbok enligt avfallsförordningen" (SFS 2001:1063).


Question :

Denmark has banned bisphenol A. Why is there no Swedish ban?

Answer :

Denmark has no general ban on bisphenol A. The ban only applies to materials that come in contact with food and that may be used by children under the age of three. The Danish government refers to the precautionary principle as the basis for the ban. In short, the precautionary principle would mean taking action against a suspected risk even when risks have not been proven. Read more on the Danish government’s web page with more information on the justification and details of the ban, Danish ban on bisphenol A.

The European Commission has decided to ban the use of bisphenol A in plastic infant feeding bottles. The ban comes into effect from 1 March, 2011.


Question :

Where can I find more information on baby bottles and cans?

Answer :

For questions on baby bottles and cans, please see the website of the National Food Administration.


Question :

Where can I find more information on professional use of receipts?

Answer :

For questions on professional use of receipts, please visit the website of the Swedish Work Environment Authority.