In the plastic containers of baby products, but also cans, clothing and leather objects, bisphenol, or rather bisphenols, should not be present or be present in limited quantities, because they are harmful to humans and the environment. However, a survey released today by Altroconsumo demonstrates that the measures envisaged at European level are not sufficient to protect especially the youngest and most vulnerable consumers, such as children.
Bisphenols – the Italian consumers’ association explains in a note – are a group of chemical compounds widely used in plastic materials, in the resins that protect objects, in leather, but also in thermal paper (that of receipts). In particular some, such as the better known bisphenol A (or Bpa), are endocrine disruptors, i.e. substances that interact with the hormonal system of our body. Therefore, these compounds should be limited, or in some cases outright banned, in baby products and materials in contact with food.
To understand how much they are present in everyday objects, especially those used by children, Altroconsumo, together with other European consumer organizations, brought dozens of the most disparate products into the laboratory. Out of 179 samples divided between textiles (covers, tights and bibs) and baby shoes, plastic objects such as water bottles, teething rings for babies and sunglasses for children, food and drinks contained in coated iron cans and aluminum cans 79 (44%) contain bisphenols considered to be of concern, or release one or more of these substances in high quantities through their use, for example through contact with the mouth or skin of the user.
They are not outlawed products – the organization clarifies – in all cases these products comply with current regulations and do not represent an immediate danger to the health of consumers. However, the general picture is worrying: the risk of excessive exposure to these substances using plastic objects or synthetic clothing every day, or consuming drinks and canned foods is really concrete. More than 60% of the plastic products we have analyzed – underlines Altroconsumo – from children’s sunglasses to teethers, release from one to six different types of bisphenol, including the infamous Bpa.
64% of textiles contain at least three different types of bisphenol and in 14% of cases the presence of Bpa exceeds the limit considered safe by the European Scientific Committee for Consumer Safety. It is no better for canned foods and canned drinks (food is the main source of exposure to bisphenols): all the containers analyzed contain them. All this demonstrates that it is necessary to review the legislation, with a view to greater precaution, to ensure a lower level of exposure to these substances, especially in children. The EU has adopted various regulations concerning the use of bisphenols in consumer products – Altroconsumo recalls – In particular, it has focused on Bpa, the bisphenol on which there is more toxicity data. The European Chemicals Agency (Echa) has classified it as a substance of very high concern (Svhc) due to its ability to interfere with the hormonal system.
The use of Bpa, therefore, according to the Reach regulation (registration, evaluation, authorization and restriction of chemical substances) is always subject to authorisation. In 2011, for example, BPA was banned in the production of baby bottles and in 2016 the European Commission restricted it in the thermal paper used for receipts. However the use of other bisphenols, such as Bps and Bpf, is not currently restricted by EU law, even though the toxicity of these substances is very similar and is under review by the European Chemicals Agency.
In 2021, the Echa proposed a restriction on the use of Bpa, Bps and other bisphenols in thermal paper, as well as in some types of consumer products, such as food contact materials and medical devices, but the proposal is still under consideration by the European Commission. The BEUC – the representation in Europe of various consumer organizations including Altroconsumo – following the results of this investigation, is asking for rules for all product categories, not just for some, and is pushing for all bisphenols to be regulated, not just the Bpa, especially to protect children from multiple exposures whose effects on health are not yet clear.
To minimize exposure to bisphenol A, to other bisphenols and more generally to plasticizers present in products, the Higher Institute of Health and Altroconsumo experts give some advice.
The first is to consume meals, whenever possible, using materials such as glass, ceramic or stainless steel, limiting plastic. Furthermore, never heat food in the microwave with unsuitable plastic containers and, if it is a ready-to-eat food, check that the container is suitable for microwave cooking (usually indicated). As for very young children – concludes the note – pay attention to plastic toys and make sure they don’t put them in their mouths. Finally, on contact exposure through fabrics, it is better to choose clothing made with natural fibers, such as cotton, wool or silk, which are less likely to contain Bpa or other bisphenols.
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