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Bisphenol-A

BPA, Diphenyol propane, 4,4'-(1-Methylidene)bisphenol

SPRI Emission Reporting Threshold
0.1 Kg/yr Pollutant Emissions to Water
0.1 Kg/yr Pollutant Emissions to Waste Water
Disclaimer
This sheet is a generic summary, designed to give the reader a basic level of background information about the substance in question. Great care has been taken to represent as effectively and correctly as possible the broad range of (not necessarily consistent) information which is available from a variety of sources. The reader must accept therefore that this sheet has no legal status and cannot be relied upon in any legal proceedings. SEPA disclaims any responsibility or liability whatsoever for errors and omissions in this sheet.
What is it?
Bisphenol A (BPA) is found as white crystals which have a mild antiseptic type smell. The crystals have a melting point of around 150 degrees celsius. BPA is not soluble in water, but it dissolves well in alcohols and alkaline solutions.
What is it used for?
BPA is used mainly in the chemical industry in the manufacture of resins, dental sealants, flame retardants and rubber chemicals.
Where does it come from?
Releases of BPA occur mainly from industry manufacturing or using it, to both air and water. Smaller amounts are also released from landfills and incinerators disposing of products containing BPA. Trace amounts of BPA in packaging materials may contaminate foods and drinks and small amounts may be released when dental sealants containing it are used.
How might it affect the environment?
The main environmental concern associated with releases of BPA is that it can mimick the behaviour of animal hormones, it is an "endocrine disruptor". Releases of BPA dusts to air are deposited to soils and waters. The low solubility of BPA means that releases to soils or water are not very mobile. BPA breaks down naturally and is not expected to accumulate in any organisms. Thus its presence in the environment is of concern on a local scale only. It is not considered likely that BPA pollution has any effects on the global environment.
How might exposure to it affect human health?
Bisphenol-A can enter the body either by inhalation of air containing bisphenol-A, ingestion of contaminated food or water, or by dermal contact with bisphenol-A. Inhalation of air containing bisphenol-A can cause irritation of the upper respiratory tract and may affect the liver, kidney and bladder. Ingestion of bisphenol-A may cause gastrointestinal irritation with nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea. Ingestion of large quantities may affect the central nervous system and lead to symptoms including headache, dizziness and diarrhoea. Dermal contact with bisphenol-A can cause skin irritation and skin sensitization. Bisphenol-A has been recognised as a possible endocrine disruptor. The International Agency for Research on Cancer has designated bisphenol-A as being not classifiable as to its carcinogenicity to humans. However, exposure to bisphenol-A at normal background levels is unlikely to have any adverse effect on human health.
What steps are being taken to limit the potential impacts?
The UK Health and Safety Executive has been carrying out a health risk assessment of BPA. This relates to the EU Directive concerned with risk assessments of "dangerous" chemicals known to be in the environment (793/93/EEC). It has been designated as a category three toxin by the European Chemicals Bureau because of its potential effects on fertility. BPA in food packaging is also controlled through the EU Directive relating to plastic materials and articles intended to come into contact with foodstuffs (90/128/EEC).