The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) has announced a public consultation seeking feedback on a proposal submitted by the French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health and Safety (ANSES) to reclassify bisphenol A (BPA) based on its alleged reproductive toxicity. According to ECHA, the proposal would upgrade the harmonized classification and labeling (CLH) of BPA from reproductive toxicity category 2 (hazard statement code H361f, “suspected of damaging fertility”) to reproductive toxicity category 1B (hazard statement code H360F, “may damage fertility”).

“France welcomes any new classification proposal for other endpoints such as carcinogenicity, development or lactation but believes that the emergency for regulating BPA is high enough justifying targeted CLH report and ATP inclusion at [sic] the first place,” states ANSES in its dossier, which includes an evaluation of BPA studies published since the last CLH evaluation was undertaken in 2002. In addition, ECHA has emphasized that the current public consultation “is targeted at the adverse effects on sexual function and fertility only, not on developmental toxicity or other hazard classes than reproductive toxicity.” It will accept comments on ANSES’s proposal until October 11, 2013.

In a related development, Bloomberg BNA’s Product Safety & Liability Reporter™ recently published an overview of the regulatory and legislative developments aimed at curbing the use of BPA in consumer products. Titled “Bisphenol A Debate Transforms Toxicology as Market Forces Outpace Research Efforts,” the article notes that in addition to the European Union, at least 17 governments and a dozen U.S. states have acted to limit the use of BPA in baby bottles or other food containers even though scientists have not yet reached a consensus on its safety. “Six government agencies around the world have concluded BPA is safe as used. The European Food Safety Authority and World Health Organization reached the same conclusion, although the Food Safety Authority is updating its risk analysis,” notes the Reporter. “France, however, found that bisphenol A poses health concerns, and Sweden is leaning in that direction.”

In particular, the article claims that consumer opposition combined with the willingness of governments to ban BPA in specific products has fueled the confusion over BPA, igniting a heated debate among regulators, researchers and the public that has prompted industry to scale back its BPA use even though the substance works to prevent the formation of botulin toxins in can linings. The dispute has also led some authorities such as the Environmental Protection Agency to reconsider how they evaluate the effects of endocrine disruptors at levels traditionally not considered in risk assessments.

“Notwithstanding broad disagreement about the safety of bisphenol A, the individuals BNA interviewed agreed that some issues came together to give BPA its high profile,” concludes the article, which features a list of the governments that have banned or limited the substance’s use in food and consumer product applications. “These include the point in time when bisphenol A grabbed the attention of scientists; the public’s widespread exposure to bisphenol A through food and drink packaging; campaigns linking baby pictures and baby bottles to fears about infant health; and industry’s ability to quickly find substitutes for BPA’s use in baby bottles, which led to public expectations that alternatives were readily available for other applications of the chemical.” See Bloomberg BNA, August 28, 2013.