EPA Seeks Comment on Possible Testing To Obtain Environmental Data on Bisphenol A

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The Environmental Protection Agency is considering requiring chemical manufacturers to conduct toxicity testing and environmental monitoring for bisphenol A, the agency said in an advance notice of proposed rulemaking to be published in the Federal Register July 26.

EPA is asking for comment on whether additional studies are needed to determine the substance's environmental effects on fish, amphibians, birds, and aquatic invertebrates.

It is also asking for information to identify any gaps in the current data on the effects of bisphenol A in the environment. EPA is considering requiring manufacturers and processors of bisphenol A to conduct the additional monitoring and testing under its authority in Section 4(a) of the Toxic Substances Control Act.

EPA said it is considering requiring environmental monitoring and testing for bisphenol A in surface water, groundwater, drinking water, soil, sediment, sludge, and landfill leachate “to resolve existing uncertainties concerning potential sources of and pathways leading to environmental exposures.” The information would help EPA determine whether existing concentrations of the substance might be causing adverse effects such as endocrine-related effects in organisms.

Environmental Data Called Insufficient

Jennifer McPartland, a health scientist at the Environmental Defense Fund, told BNA July 25 that EPA does not have “nearly sufficient information about BPA in the environment.”

The information collection “will be helpful,” she said. However, “it won't give EPA all it needs to understand what it needs to know about the chemical.”

McPartland said the data EPA collects could provide new insights into human exposure to bisphenol A as well.

Representatives of the American Chemistry Council, the leading trade association for chemical manufacturers, could not be reached for comment.

Bisphenol A is released directly into the environment by manufacturers and processors, according to EPA. According to the Toxics Release Inventory, 1.132 million pounds of bisphenol A were released in the United States in 2007.

The advance notice of proposed rulemaking follows the announcement in March 2010 of an action plan outlining several steps EPA will take to address the potential environmental effects of bisphenol A, which could include placing it on a list of chemicals of particular concern (59 DEN A-1, 3/30/10).

The White House Office of Management and Budget completed its review of the advance notice June 17 (119 DEN A-1, 6/21/11).

Bisphenol A Toxic in the Environment

The studies would focus solely on the chemical's impact on environmental organisms.

EPA said it is working with the Department of Health and Human Services to address any potential human health issues separately. According to EPA, the majority of human exposure to bisphenol A comes from food packaging materials, which are under the Food and Drug Administration's jurisdiction.

According to EPA, bisphenol A is a reproductive and developmental toxicant, as shown in animal studies. However, prior studies by Canada, Japan, and the European Union on the environmental effects of bisphenol A, particularly for low level exposure, have not been conclusive.

The results suggest “further testing is necessary to resolve the question of whether or not BPA presents an unreasonable risk of injury to the environment on the basis of those effects,” EPA said.

EPA said the studies are needed to identify environmentally relevant concentrations of bisphenol A and to determine the levels of the substance that are present in the environment.

Bisphenol A is a chemical used to make polycarbonate plastics, which are durable and heat-resistant. Such plastics are used for CDs, DVDs, reusable bottles, electronic equipment, automobile parts, construction glazing, sports safety equipment, and other products. The chemical also is used to make epoxy resins to line food cans and to coat or reinforce a variety of other plastics used for industrial purposes.

A number of states have placed restrictions on use of BPA, particularly in products that come into contact with children, such as baby bottles and cups. Delaware was the latest, with Gov. Jack Markell (D) signing legislation June 30 to prohibit the sale of empty baby bottles, spill-proof cups, and other containers designed for use by children under 4 that contain the substance (127 DEN A-15, 7/1/11).

EPA will accept comments on the advance notice of proposed rulemaking until Sept. 23. Comment can be made at http://www.regulations.gov and should reference docket No. EPA-HQ-OPPT-2010-0812.

By Andrew Childers

For more information, contact Mary Dominiak in EPA's Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics at (202) 564-8104.