The request made by Edith Schippers, Dutch minister of health, welfare and sport, follows a report published last month by the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) into the risks of BPA on the environment and health.
Schippers believes the findings of the report constitute “sufficient reason” to look into tightening standards.
Her letter, sent to EFSA chief Bernard Url on 19 April, reads: “Recent scientific research shows that BPA can damage the immune system, of the foetus or young children at lower exposure levels that to which the current standards for BPA are based.
“This lower level of exposure is at approximately the same level as the daily exposure of consumers and workers to BPA. As a result of this exposure people have possibly more chance to develop food intolerances and they can be more susceptible to infectious diseases.“
BPA is used in cash register receipts, food packaging materials and toys among other goods, and excessive exposure is harmful to fertility and can affect the hormone system, says RIVM.
In January last year EFSA published an opinion in which it said BPA posed no safety risk to consumers of any age group, including unborn children, infants and adolescents. It said exposure from the diet or a variety of sources, including dust, cosmetics or thermal paper, all fell "considerably below" safe limits.
Although new data and refined methodologies have meant a reduction in the safe level of BPA from 50 micrograms per kilogram of body weight per day (μg/kg of bw/day) to 4 μg/kg of bw/day, the EFSA opinion found the highest estimates for exposure were three to five times lower than this.
Several alternatives exist
The RVIM’s report urged the Dutch national government to act to reduce short-term BPA exposure. It said this could be done by developing safe alternatives or ensuring less BPA is released from products.
“The RIVM concludes that there are several alternatives to BPA, among them drop-in substances, material substitutes and non-chemical alternatives. For most chemical substitutes, hazard information is lacking, while the use of BPA analogues seems unsuitable on the basis that they have comparable hazard profiles to BPA,” says the report.
But according to a draft EU regulation published by the World Trade Organisation, there could be stricter limits on BPA by March 2017.
The regulation would see the migration limit for BPA changed from 0.6 mg/kg to 0.05 mg/kg, while this 0.5 mg migration limit would be expanded to include varnished or coated materials intended to come into contact with food.
Bisphenol A is banned from use in baby bottles in the EU.