We live in a world in which man-made chemicals have become a part of our lives. It is impossible to imagine any product manufactured without the use of chemicals. However, though many of the chemicals are useful and beneficial but some of the chemicals are highly toxic and are extremely harmful to human health and environment. Further, some of these chemicals can affect the endocrine (hormonal) system and interfere with important developmental processes in humans and wildlife species. These chemicals are mostly termed as the Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs).
International Management of EDCs: World’s oldest organization, Endocrine Society have been at the forefront of scientific advancements in the field of EDCs since it was first to identify that exogenous chemicals can have effects on endocrine systems.
In recent years scientific understanding of the health impacts of EDCs has been growing. For an appropriate global action, the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM) was established by the International Conference on Chemicals Management in February 2006, with the overall objective to achieve the sound management of chemicals throughout their lifecycle so that, by 2020, chemicals are used and produced in ways that minimize significant adverse effects on human health and the environment. In the SAICM, EDC has been considered as an emerging issue and urged the nations to take appropriate action to mitigate the chemicals to minimize the impact on environment and health.
In February 2013, UNEP and WHO released the report State of the Science of Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals – 2012 which identifies concerns, including evidence in humans, laboratory animals, and wildlife that EDC exposure can result in adverse effects, and emphasises on reducing its exposure.
Research and Advocacy: Countries across the globe are trying to phase out EDCs from the products as far as possible. However, in India the public information on EDC is very limited, though India being one of the biggest markets for the chemical use. To enhance the public information and the desired policy changes to phase out EDCs, Toxics Link has been exploring these harmful chemicals in different food sources and personal care products. The report of its first research came in 2014 titled “Bottles can be toxics – an investigative study on BPA in baby feeding bottles in India”. This was followed with two other reports- “Endocrine Disruptive Chemicals (EDCs) in Personal Care Products – 2016” and “Beware of Toxic Sippy Cups – An Investigative study on Bisphenol – A (BPA) in Sippy cups in India -2016.” These reports were first of its kind on EDCs in Indian context and generated interest of the concerned stakeholders.
Further, Toxics Link has started a campaign to remove EDCs from several other products and have come up with many reports. It also organizes conferences and meetings intermittently on EDCs involving the policymakers, scientists, and public interest groups to draw a future road map in Indian context. It has also developed fact sheets and other IEC materials for creating mass awareness on EDCs and their health and environmental impact.
Policy Intervention: Toxics Link has raised the health concerns of BPA in baby feeding bottles among the legislators and the concern ministry. The issue was discussed in the parliament of India many times.
We are persistently in communication with the BIS to create regulations and ban the use of BPA in the baby feeding bottles in India since 2014. Subsequently, BIS has revised the standards for baby feeding bottles in 2015 as per IS 14625:2015 and prohibited the use of BPA in baby feeding bottles.
The Ministry of Child Welfare has also taken action and mentioned that as per section no. 4.1 of IS 14625:2015, “the material used for plastic feeding bottles and accessories excluding teats shall be of polypropylene conforming to IS 10910 or polyethersulfone (PES) or any other olefin based polymer, co-polyester material or other raw material as given in Annex II for manufacture of plastic feeding bottles. The materials used should pose no health hazards to babies and shall not contain Bisphenol -A (BPA).”
The Ministry also suggested phasing out BPA from cups, spouts and straws with the possible amendment into the definition of feeding bottles in the Infant Milk Substitutes, Feeding Bottles and infant Foods (Regulation of Production, Supply and Distribution) Act, 1992. The proposed new amendment on the definition of feeding bottles is “Any Bottle or Receptacle used for the purpose of feeding infant milk substitute through a treat or drinking accessory attached or capable of being attached to such bottle and receptacle”. However, the proposed amendment has not been notified yet.