Europe tightens 'gender bender' chemical rules

Europe has tightened controls on a "gender bender" chemical present in food and drinks which has been linked to breast cancer, fertility problems and other illnesses.

The European Commission announced a ban on the manufacture of baby bottles containing Bisphenol A, or BPA, on 1 March next year and their importation and sale on 1 June.

Many companies have already removed the plastics hardener from baby bottles, but it remains in the lids of jars of baby foods as well as in a wide array of consumer products including tinned food, fizzy drinks, till receipts, mobile phones and computers.

The ban is a sign of increasing concerned among regulators about the chemical, which mimics the female hormone oestrogen. Surveys show it is present in the bodies of more than 90 per cent of Westerners.

The plastics and chemicals industries insist BPA is safe, a view backed by some leading scientists, such as Professor Richard Sharpe, a fertility expert at the Medical Research Council.

The ban announced by he European Commissioner for Health, John Dalli, brings European regulation closer into line with US action. After years of insisting BPA was safe, the US Food and Drug Administration announced in January it had "some concern" about its potential effects on the brain, behaviour and the prostate glands of foetuses, babies and young children, and called for industry to remove it.

Independently-funded scientists suggest BPA poses a risk to human health, particularly among babies and infants with undeveloped immune systems. Some scientists fear it could cause a range of diseases, including breast and prostate cancers as well as attention deficit disorders, fertility problems and obesity – all of which are rising in the West.

Until now Europe has always agreed with tests funded by the chemicals industry showing that BPA was safe. In September, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) disregarded many independent peer-reviewed studies in favour of these industry studies, adding that there were still uncertainties about the substance. France and Denmark, did not agree with the EFSA and refused to revoke their own bans on BPA in baby bottles.

Referring to the EFSA's uncertainties, Mr Dalli told The Independent this week: "The EFSA decision was such that it indicated that there are doubts that Bisphenol effect can be harmful, it can be a tumour stimulator and it can also affect other things. And on that decision we decided to ban the use of Bisphenol A in baby bottles."

An investigation by the German state broadcaster ARD last week uncovered several undeclared links between EFSA members and the chemicals industry.

Mr Dalli said he was completely assured of EFSA's independence, but said he wanted to improve vetting of its members to ensure it was "beyond reproach".

He said: "We have been talking to the EFSA to improve and solidify its processes on the independence issue. I am pushing for a specific audit and due diligence processes on people who apply to become panel members and, also people who have participated in panels, to make sure that the declarations that are made are based on facts and there is no conflict of interest in the people who are taking the decisions.

"The samples of panellists, existing or past, would be selected at random, so there is also a deterrent factor on this," he added.

Industry lobbying for BPA has been intense. In documents obtained by The Independent, a secretive US lobby company the Weinberg Group boasted how it had helped scupper the last EU attempt to increase regulation of BPA in 2001, saying its work had been "designed to target political hot buttons, such as the risk to high-tech jobs".

Gwynne Lyons, director of CHEM Trust, said: "We are pleased the EC has now reduced infant exposure from BPA in baby bottles, but that is only one small step. BPA is used in many products, including food cans and some till receipts, and tests show that most people are constantly exposed."

Professor Sharpe said: "Personally, I think this is an over-reaction, but if satisfactory replacements chemicals are available, then this can be done to placate those calling for action, but scientifically it's a retrograde step."

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    SFL Group: Video Project Manager

    £24,000 pa, plus benefits: SFL Group: Looking for a hard-working and self-moti...

    Recruitment Genius: Hotel Reservations Assistant - French Speaking

    £16000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This rapidly expanding travel c...

    Recruitment Genius: Duty Manager - World-Famous London Museum

    £24000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Do you have a strong record of ...

    Recruitment Genius: Personal Assistant

    £24000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will have demonstrable unde...

    Day In a Page

    Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

    The future of GM

    The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
    Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

    Britain's mild winters could be numbered

    Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
    Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

    The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

    The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
    Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

    Cowslips vs honeysuckle

    It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
    Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss
    Tony Blair joins a strange and exclusive club of political leaders whose careers have been blighted by the Middle East

    Blair has joined a strange and exclusive club

    A new tomb has just gone up in the Middle East's graveyard of US and British political reputations, says Patrick Cockburn
    Election 2015: Meet the top 12 wacky candidates seeking your vote in May

    Election 2015

    Meet the top 12 wacky candidates seeking your vote in May
    Countdown to the election: Operation Save Danny Alexander shifts into high gear as the SNP target his Commons seat

    Operation Save Danny Alexander shifts into high gear

    The Chief Secretary to the Treasury didn’t forget his Highland roots in the Budget. But the SNP is after his Commons seat
    The US economy is under threat because of its neglected infrastructure

    The US is getting frayed at the edges

    Public spending on infrastructure is only half of Europe’s, and some say the nation’s very prosperity is threatened, says Rupert Cornwell
    Mad Men final episodes: Museum exhibition just part of the hoopla greeting end of 1960s-set TV hit

    New Yorkers raise a glass to Mad Men

    A museum exhibition is just part of the hoopla greeting the final run of the 1960s-set TV hit
    Land speed record: British-built hybrid rocket car aims to be the fastest on Earth

    British-built hybrid rocket car aims to be the fastest on Earth

    Bloodhound SSC will attempt to set a new standard in South Africa's Kalahari desert
    Housebuilders go back to basics by using traditional methods and materials

    Housebuilders go back to basics - throwing mud at the wall until it sticks

    Traditional materials are ticking all the construction boxes: they are cheap, green – and anyone can use them
    Daniel Brühl: 'When you have success abroad, you become a traitor. Envy is very German'

    Daniel Brühl: 'Envy is very German'

    He's got stick for his golden acting career and for his beloved restaurant - but Daniel Brühl is staying put in Berlin (where at least the grannies love him)
    How Leica transformed photography for ever: Celebrating 100 years of the famous camera

    Celebrating 100 years of Leica

    A new book reveals how this elegant, lightweight box of tricks would transform the way we saw life on the street and in fashion, on the battlefield and across the world