The Court of Justice of the EU has confirmed that bisphenol A (BPA) – a chemical used to make plastics – must be listed as a “substance of very high concern” for its hormone-disrupting properties on the human body, say not-for-profit organisation Client Earth.
The official EU list of “substances of very high concern” (SVHC) under REACH means manufacturers have a duty to communicate information on the substance to customers, clients and public authorities but it is also a signal sent to the market to invest in alternatives.
Following scientific work undertaken by the French authorities, the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) identified BPA as hazardous for the endocrine system – and therefore of very high concern. With this ruling, the Court rejected the final attempt by lobby group PlasticsEurope to reverse ECHA’s decision – so BPA will stay on the official list of substances of very high concern. PlasticsEurope cannot appeal this judgment.
Chemicals in everyday household items
BPA is used in the manufacture of food containers, plastic bottles and receipts. It is already banned in the EU for some products – such as baby bottles. France has banned BPA in all food packaging, containers and utensils.
This is a victory for public health
Alice Bernard, in-house lawyer at environmental law charity ClientEarth, intervener in the case, said: “BPA is one of the most studied chemicals and its hormone-disrupting properties for humans are well-documented. The Court confirmed that ECHA’s decision to flag BPA as a ‘substance of very high concern’ was legal and grounded in science. ECHA and the French authorities should be praised – this is not only a victory for public health, but also shows that public authorities can and should resist to industry pressures.
“We know there are still many hormone-disrupting chemicals not yet recognised as such under EU law. It’s up to the EU Commission and national public authorities to initiate actions to fill the gaps. This judgment undoubtedly strengthens their hand and needs to be a catalyst for further action. The industry needs to invest in alternatives rather than spend resources in fighting much-needed regulation in court.”
In 2015, the non-profit organisation ChemSec identified 32 endocrine-disrupting chemicals that needed to be added as a priority to the official EU list of “substances of very high concern”. Since then, only three of those (DCHP and 3-Benzylidene camphor 3-BC, Butyl 4-hydroxybenzoate) have been listed as endocrine-disrupting chemicals.
PlasticsEurope has taken ECHA to court on three separate occasions:
- In 2019, PlasticsEurope lost a first case challenging the decision to make BPA an SVHC based on its properties as toxic for reproduction.
- In 2019, PlasticsEurope also lost a second case challenging the decision to make BPA an SVHC based on its endocrine-disrupting for humans.
- Today, PlasticsEurope lost its appeal on this second case challenging the decision to make BPA a SVHC based on its endocrine-disrupting properties for humans.
- In 2020, PlasticsEurope lost a third case challenging the decision to make BPA an SVHC based on its endocrine-disrupting properties for wildlife. They decided to appeal the judgment and the appeal is pending.
In all three cases, ClientEarth acted as intervener – supporting the defendant ECHA in its defence together with France and Germany against PlasticsEurope’s challenge before the EU courts.
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