Health groups call on the leaders of the Western Balkan countries to harmonize national air quality standards with the World Health Organization Global air quality guidelines. Health experts should be actively involved in these decision-making processes to ensure the timely integration of public health measures into environmental policies. Compliance with WHO recommendations brings multiple benefits – reduced incidence of chronic diseases and premature deaths, reduced overall health costs and, most importantly, better health and higher productivity of people.
As a membership network of over 70 public interest organisations aiming to promote and protect people’s health through environmental action, the Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) looks forward to the European Parliament’s environment committee using its right of scrutiny on the European Commission proposed regulation on the use of bisphenol A (BPA) in varnishes and coatings intended to come into contact with food and amending regulation 10/2011 .
On Thursday 11th January, we urge you to reject the European Commission regulation mentioned above, which fails to protect citizens from the adverse health consequences of BPA, and rather to support the motion for objection jointly put forward by several Members across political parties.
There are well known human health and environment concerns in relation to exposure to Bisphenol A, including its endocrine disrupting properties and its toxicity for reproduction. These concerns justify a full ban of the substance at the European level in all consumer products, in particular sensitive products such as materials coming into contact with the food that European citizens eat .
However, the European Commission’s regulation proposes only to lower the migration limit of BPA in varnishes and coatings intended to come into contact with food, and consequently will fail to adequately protect European citizens because BPA can have adverse health effects at very low doses. This weak proposal is all the more puzzling and disappointing given safer alternatives are available and some member states and industry retailers are already on the path to substitution, showing that a full ban is possible.
HEAL is asking you to oppose the European Commission regulation for three main reasons:
1. BPA’s recognised endocrine disrupting properties for human health and the environment and toxicity for reproduction
The adverse health and environment effects of BPA are very well documented, with concerns about those effects due to its endocrine disrupting properties already flagged up in the 1990’s. The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) validated those concerns when identifying BPA as a substance of very high concerns (SVHC) because of its endocrine disrupting properties for human health and the environment respectively in June and December 2017 . Such identification adds to BPA classification as toxic for reproduction under the CLP regulation (which also got strengthened from category 2 to 1B in July 2016 ) and should open the way for a full phase out of this toxic substance in the near future.
As you will be aware, endocrine disrupting chemicals are a significant challenge in terms of health protection because exposure at very low levels is associated to numerous adverse effects ranging from cancers to infertility problems, thyroid or behavioural disorders, which can sometimes manifest themselves years or decades after the actual exposure time. This is why exposure at key periods of human development (such as in utero exposure of the embryo or puberty) is so critical. From the perspective of regulators, this calls for particular caution when it comes to protecting individuals from exposure to chemicals through everyday consumer items such as the packaging wrapping the food we eat, because there are significant uncertainties about the establishment of said “safe levels”.
2. European Parliament 2016 resolution calling for full BPA ban in food contact materials
In the case of the regulation of BPA in food contact materials, it is also important to recall that the European Parliament already took a unanimous decision in support of a full ban of the substance in all food contact materials, through its 2016 resolution . Not only does the European Commission regulation not comply with this earlier demand, but it also fails to bring any meaningful argument to justify why this is the case, in a context where the scientific evidence and ECHA opinions on BPA are piling up to support a full ban of the substance.
3. Safer alternatives available and member states and industry retailers already taking action
As pointed out by ECHA itself, safer alternatives are readily available to BPA on the European market and this should add further impetus for decision-makers to fully phase out the substance . On the one hand, retailers are increasingly taking unilateral action to substitute BPA due to consumer demands and an understanding that there is a business case in the promotion of truly safer alternatives in the long run . On the other hand, France’s experience with the introduction of a ban of BPA in all food contact materials since 2015 shows that substituting this toxic substance is possible and has given rise to inspiring industry exchanges about safer substitutes . However, if agreed upon, the European Commission regulation would hinder this progressive example of health-protective and innovation-stimulating measures.
For all the reasons mentioned above, HEAL is of the opinion that the proposed European Commission regulation that you will discuss on 11th January should be opposed, as a matter of health protection, consistency with earlier European identification and European Parliament decision, and from a business point of view.
We count on you to put human health protection first and remain available for any question that you might have.
Ms. Génon K. Jensen, Executive Director
Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL)