Bisphenol A

Bisphenol A (BPA) is a substance that occurs in numerous products. BPA is used in plastics for i.e. construction material, electronics, plastic bottles, (food)packaging material, toys and medical devices. BPA is also used as a base for epoxy-coatings, adhesives and in specific dental care products and as a dye developer in thermal paper, such as cash register receipts. Excessive BPA exposure is harmful to fertility and can affect the hormone system. 

In 2014 and 2015 more stringent European standards for safe exposure of workers and consumers to bisphenol A (BPA) were proposed. RIVM has concluded that new insights sufficiently warrant consideration of even more stringent standards and has recommended taking supplementary measures in the near future for a further reduction of BPA exposure. Recently there are indications that BPA at lower levels than previously thought, may impair the immune system of the unborn child, infants and young children.

New animal studies show that BPA can impair the immune system of the unborn child, infants and young children at a lower exposure level than the one on which the current standards are based. This lower level is roughly comparable to the current every day BPA exposure level of workers and consumers. As a result of this exposure during pregnancy and at young age, children could have a greater probability of developing food intolerances and could become more susceptible to infectious diseases. 

Human exposure

Because BPA is used in a wide range of products all consumers are to some extent exposed to BPA. This exposure is generally below the existing European standard. Based on current consumer exposure to BPA and the applicable European standard, there are generally no expected adverse effects for consumers. Given recent indications that BPA can impair the immune system of unborn and young children at a lower exposure level than the one on which the current standards are based, protection of this group deserves special attention. The exposure of certain groups of patients and workers is sometimes above the current European standard, for example workers who work in a factory with BPA, or cashiers working in shops with cash receipts. 

Patients can be exposed to BPA because BPA is used in some medical devices, such as infusion equipment, implants, catheters, and dental materials. As for consumers, exposure for patients is in general under the existing European standard. The European Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Risks concluded in 2015 in their evaluation of medical devices that the exposure to BPA may be above the European norm for preterm infants and young children undergoing long-term medical treatment, and in dialysis patients. Recent indications of possible adverse effects on the immune system due to exposure before birth and in the early years, give additional cause for concern for these groups.

Environment exposure

BPA is found in all surface water and sediment. Monitoring data show that the BPA exposure exceeds the present European environmental standards for benthic organisms at several European sites. The exposure to BPA remains below the present European environmental standards for pelagic organisms. Emissions of BPA to the environment may result from its manufacture, its use in a broad range of products or the recycling and disposal of these products. More clarity on the contribution of various sources of BPA to its concentration in water and sediment is expected in the course of 2016.


Based on these new insights RIVM advises to revisit the current European standards for safe exposure and to reduce BPA exposure in the short term wherever possible. Special attention needs to be devoted to protecting small children, pregnant women and women who breastfeed. This is because the developing unborn child, infants and young children are more sensitive than adults to the effects of BPA.

Ways to reduce exposure include developing safe alternatives or ensuring that less BPA is released from products. Additionally, workers can be protected against BPA exposure.

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