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California Watchdog Group Requests Stricter Regulation of BPA in Canned Foods

California-based consumer watchdog group Center for Environmental Health filed a legal petition on 10 August demanding that the California Department of Toxic Substances Control use the Safer Consumer Products programme to regulate the use of bisphenol A in canned foods and beverages. Specifically, CEH is requesting that BPA-based epoxy resins used as linings of food and beverage cans be identified as a priority product/chemical combination due to the significant exposures to BPA by Californians, which may potentially cause a wide variety of health problems.

CEH contends that numerous studies document the health hazards linked to BPA, including a comprehensive 2014 review article in Environmental Health Perspectives that identified damage to the ovaries and uterus as well as prostate damage as significant health effects caused by BPA exposure. In 2015, an expert committee recommended that California's Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment identify BPA as a chemical known to cause reproductive toxicity, something that OEHHA eventually did.

The Safer Consumer Products regulations require responsible entities (manufacturers, importers, assemblers and retailers) to notify DTSC when their product is listed as a priority product, and DTSC will post that information on its Web site. Manufacturers or other responsible entities of products listed as priority products will be required to perform an “alternatives analysis” for the product and the chemicals of concern in that product to determine how best to limit exposures or the level of adverse public health and environmental impacts posed by the chemicals of concern. DTSC will also have to identify and require implementation of regulatory responses to protect public health and/or the environment and maximise the use of acceptable and feasible alternatives of least concern.

DTSC has the authority to require regulatory responses for a priority product (if the manufacturer decides to retain the priority product) or for an alternative product selected to replace the priority product. This may include ordering the removal or replacement of the chemical of concern in the product or the removal of the product from the California marketplace. DTSC is currently considering priority product designations for: (1) children’s foam-padded sleeping products containing tris(1,3-dichloro-2-propyl) phosphate (TDCPP) or tris(2-chloroethyl) phosphate (TCEP); (2) paint and varnish strippers and surface cleaners containing methylene chloride; and (3) spray polyurethane foam systems containing unreacted methylene diphenyl diicocyanates.

In a press release announcing its decision to file a legal petition on BPA, CEH criticised Californian authorities for issuing an emergency regulation relaxing the Proposition 65 warning requirements for BPA in canned and bottled foods. Beginning on 11 May 2016, warnings are required for all exposures to BPA from canned and bottled foods and beverages unless the person causing the exposure can show that the exposure, when multiplied by 1,000 times, has no observable effect. However, an OEHHA emergency regulation allows the temporary use of a standard point-of-sale warning message for BPA exposures from canned and bottled foods and beverages until warnings could be placed on newly manufactured cans and/or BPA is removed from the linings. OEHHA is conducting a rulemaking process to establish a continuance of the emergency regulation on BPA, with certain changes to reflect the various comments received on this matter.

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