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CONSUMER PRODUCTS AND RETAIL E-SSENTIALS

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EU: EC investigates the presence of Bisphenol A in clothing

NOVEMBER 2019 - RELEVANT FOR: SOFTLINES

The European Commission (EC) has recently issued a mandate1 to the Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety (SCCS), requesting the SCCS to determine whether clothing articles expose consumers to a concerned level of Bisphenol A (BPA), whether vulnerable consumers such as infants, young children or pregnant women are in particular risk and, if possible, to recommend limit values.

BPA (CAS No. 80-05-7) is classified as toxic to reproduction (category 1B) and skin sensitiser (category 1) under Regulation (EC) No 1272/2008. It also exhibits endocrine disrupting activity, adversely affecting female reproductive system and mammary gland. Recently, BPA has also been suspected to impair the development of the immune system, which may be due to its resemblance to oestrogen. Its toxicity has been evaluated by different Scientific Committees over the years.

In spite of its hazard profile, BPA is widely used in the production of various materials such as polycarbonate, epoxy resins, polyvinyl chloride and thermal paper. It is frequently found in different consumer products including plastic tableware, drinking bottles, sports equipment, CDs, cans for food and drinks, sales receipts, etc. Restrictions on the use of BPA are hence adopted for various products in the European (EU) market.

  • Regulation (EU) No 10/2011 restricts the use of BPA in certain food contact materials as well as polycarbonate infant feeding bottles and drinking bottles / cups;
  • Under the Toy Safety Directive 2009/48/EC, the lowered migration limit for BPA has recently come into effect since 26 November 2019;
  • The use of BPA in thermal paper is also going to be regulated under the REACH regulation (EC No 1907/2006) Annex XVII starting from 2 January next year.

However, there is no direct restriction on the use of BPA in textiles. Only textile products being granted the EU Ecolabel are prohibited to contain excessive BPA as it is included in the Substances of Very High Concern (SVHC) Candidate List under REACH regulation. However, the situation may be changed as BPA has been detected in clothing articles in studies carried out during the past two years. The presence of BPA and endocrine disrupting activity have been identified in socks for infants and young children as well as women’s pantyhose. The results raise concern as clothing articles have direct and prolonged contact with skin; children may even put clothes in their mouth, resulting in additional oral exposure. Pregnant women may also suffer due to the potential effect on the unborn child. Therefore, owing to the absence of relevant legislation, the EC is requesting the SCCS to provide a scientific opinion. It will be used to assist the EC in accessing the risk and the potential need for legislative amendments in the chemicals legislation and/or enforcement measures. The SCCS is expected to deliver its preliminary opinion in March 2020; and the final opinion is expected to be finalised in September 2020.

It is worthy to note that BPA is also being concerned in the United Sates. Early this year, a request2 for Safe Use Determinations (SUD) for exposure to BPA were submitted to the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA).

[1] Request for a scientific opinion on the presence of Bisphenol A in clothing

[2] Newsletter of California received two Safe Use Determination requests under Proposition 65, March 2019

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