In plastic containers produced for children, 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. A survey released by Altroconsumo shows that the smallest and most vulnerable consumers, children, are most exposed to this risk.

What are bisphenols

It is a group of chemical compounds widely used in plastic materials, in 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, or substances that interact with the hormonal system of our body. These compounds should therefore be limited, or in some cases banned, in baby products and materials in contact with food.

The products most at risk

To understand how much they are present in everyday objects, especially those used by children, Altroconsumo, together with other European consumer organizations, has brought dozens of products to the laboratory. Out of 179 samples divided between textiles (covers, tights and bibs and baby shoes), plastic objects (water bottles, gum massagers for teething babies and sunglasses for children), food and beverages contained in coated iron cans and aluminum cans, as many as 79 (44%) contain bisphenols considered worrying , 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.

These are not illegal products - clarifies the organization - in all cases these products comply with current regulations and do not represent an immediate danger to the health of consumers. However, the big picture is worrying: the risk of excessively exposing yourself to these substances by using plastic objects or synthetic clothing every day, or by consuming canned drinks and foods is really real.

The results of the survey

"More than 60% of the plastic products we have analyzed - underlines Altroconsumo - from children's sunglasses to gum massagers, release from one to six different types of bisphenol, including the infamous BPA".

All this shows that it is necessary to revise the legislation, with a view to greater precaution, to ensure a lower level of exposure to these substances, particularly in children.

The BEUC - the representation in Europe of several consumer organizations including Altroconsumo - following the results of this survey, calls for rules for all categories of products, and pushes for all bisphenols to be regulated, to protect especially children from multiple exposure whose effects on health are not yet clear.

Measures envisaged at European level

The EU has adopted several regulations concerning the use of bisphenols in consumer products - recalls Altroconsumo - In particular, it has focused on BPA, the bisphenol on which there are 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 chemicals) is always subject to authorization. In 2011, for example, BPA was banned in the production of baby bottles and in 2016 the European Commission restricted it to thermal paper used for tax receipts. However, the use of other bisphenols, such as BPS and BPF, is not currently restricted by EU law, although the toxicity of these substances is very similar and is under review by the European Chemicals Agency.

In 2021, ECHA proposed a restriction on the use of BPA, BPS and other bisphenols in thermal paper, as well as in certain types of consumer products, such as food contact materials and medical devices, but the proposal is still under consideration by the European Commission.

How to reduce exposure to bisphenols

The Istituto Superiore di Sanità has drawn up a series of practical tips to minimize exposure to this type of substances.

The first advice is to eat meals, whenever possible, using materials such as glass, ceramics or stainless steel, limiting plastic, even in drinks. Also, do not heat food in the microwave with inappropriate plastic containers and, if it is a ready-to-eat food, check that the container is suitable for microwave cooking (usually indicated). Limit the consumption of ready-to-eat foods if prepared and distributed in plastic containers. As for very young children, pay attention to plastic toys and check that they do not put them in their mouths. Finally, on exposure from contact 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.