January 11, 2024

European Agency Recommends OEL for Bisphenol A

A scientific report (PDF) published in December by the European Chemicals Agency includes ECHA’s recommendations regarding occupational exposure limits for 4,4-isopropylidenediphenol, also known as bisphenol A. The agency was tasked by the European Commission to evaluate exposure to bisphenol A to assess the option of an airborne OEL, other limit values such as biological limit values and biological guidance values, and notations. According to ECHA, bisphenol A has endocrine-disrupting properties. It is also classified as a reprotoxic substance under reproductive toxicant category 1B, which means that it is presumed to have adverse effects on sexual function and fertility in humans based on evidence from animal studies.

Bisphenol A is primarily used in the manufacture of polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins. It is also used as an additive—for example, as a photo-developer in thermal papers like receipt paper—and to manufacture other chemicals. Routes of exposure include inhalation, dermal, and ingestion, according to OSHA method 1018 (PDF). ECHA’s report notes that workers in manufacturing are more likely to be exposed via dust inhalation, while workers who handle receipts containing bisphenol A are likelier to encounter dermal exposures.

ECHA recommends an OEL of 0.2 mg/m3 as an eight-hour time-weighted average. The agency also proposes a skin notation for bisphenol A because it is absorbed after dermal exposure, and a skin sensitization notation due to its harmonized classification under the European Union’s regulation on the classification, labelling, and packaging of substances and mixtures.

A NIOSH skin notation profile of bisphenol A published in 2011 explains that the substance is “potentially capable of causing adverse health effects following skin contact” and assigns it a skin notation of SK: SEN, with critical effects including skin allergy and photoallergy. While OSHA and NIOSH have not established exposure limits for bisphenol A, NIOSH encourages employers to minimize workers’ exposure to the substance using the hierarchy of controls.

Stakeholders are invited to comment on ECHA’s proposals for bisphenol A until Feb. 19. More information is available on the agency’s website.