Bisphenols & Leather - What you need to know

Germany proposes to restrict Bisphenols with endocrine disrupting properties in the environment. The dossier submitters postulate that it is not possible to set sufficiently safe threshold values for endocrine disrupting chemicals in the environment. There is a large variety of emission sources with broad dispersive and wide spread uses. Therefore, the proposed restriction aims to minimise the emissions of Bisphenols with endocrine disrupting properties in the environment.

Podcast: Solving the Bisphenol problem with TFL

February 22, 2023

ILM Deputy Editor Tom Hogarth is joined by Christopher Tysoe and Dr Martin Kleban from global leather chemicals supplier TFL to discuss the hot topic of bisphenols in leather.

TFL’s syntans remain an indispensable tool to attain key leather properties

How can you reduce your exposure to Bisphenols in leather?

TFL have taken steps to respond to those regulatory challenges.

Through process optimization the Bisphenols content in the products is gradually lowered with the targets that

  • 1. the main leather properties like softness, tightness and fullness are maintained to facilitate the production of the majority of the leather articles
  • 2. the resulting leather can be freely sold without limit in EU in full compliance to the new restriction proposal.

Several Bisphenol optimized syntans have been launched and further product launches can be expected.

Do you have any questions? Get our expert advice.

What are Bisphenols?

Bisphenols are group of man-made chemicals that are used in the manufacturing of polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins. The most widely used chemical in the group, produced in high volumes, is Bisphenol A (BPA).

The use of the other Bisphenols, such as Bisphenol S (BPS) and Bisphenol F (BPF) is limited in comparison. However, these chemicals are being used as replacements for BPA in some niche applications, following restrictions on the use of BPA.

Bisphenols may be used as raw materials in plastics with these pictograms

How are Bisphenols used?

Bisphenols are widely used in the consumer products industry as a precursor with other chemical products to manufacture plastics and resins.

  • BPA is used as a building block in the production of polycarbonate plastics for the manufacture of a wide range of consumer goods. Another primary use of BPA is to produce epoxy resins. BPA has been used in the manufacture of thermal papers for shop sales receipts, public transport tickets, parking tickets and airline boarding passes.
  • Both BPS and BPF are also used in the manufacture of plastics. In particular, BPS is increasingly used in the production of thermal papers. This is driven by a ban on the use of BPA in thermal papers in the European Union that came into force in January 2020.

Until recently, the attention surrounding Bisphenols has largely been related to their use in food contact materials and the associated regulations in place to prevent this. However, we are now seeing an increased focus on the use of Bisphenols in the leather and textile industry.

While BPA is specifically targeted when regulating food contact material, BPS & BPF are much more likely to be an area of consideration for the leather and textile industry. BPF & BPS are impurities present in syntans used in leather manufacturing

In addition, BPS is used in the production of synthetic tanning chemicals and can be found as unreacted raw material in sulfone based syntans whereas BPS & BPF can be both produced as unwanted by-products.

The syntans are water soluble tanning polymers (synthetic retanning products) used to complete the tanning of several types of chrome-free leathers or as retanning agent to improve the softness, fullness, filling, tightness etc. of the leathers.

BPA is not used as an intermediate chemical in the leather industry.

Today, syntans remain an essential tool to convert intermediates (wet blue, wet white) into genuine leather.

TFL has already launched an indispensable range of genuine syntans that enable customers to manufacture leathers that will comply to upcoming threshold of 500 mg/kg of Bisphenols, all developed, manufactured and strictly controlled within TFL’s own facilities

Human exposure to Bisphenols in Europe and how is the European Union protecting citizens?

The EU has taken action to reduce citizen’s exposure to BPA. BPA has been harmonized for classification and labelling as a substance that

  • Causes toxic effects on our ability to reproduce (Repr. 1B)
  • May cause respiratory irritation (STOT SE 3)
  • May cause skin allergies (skin sens. 1)

BPA is also classified as a SVHC and listed in the Candidate List of Substance of Very High Concern due to its toxicity for reproduction and endocrine-disrupting properties that may cause adverse effects to people’s health and the environment.

In January 2023 BPS has been added to the SVHC candidate list as well, despite advocacy of the industry that pointed out the insufficient scientific background.

Considering the risks associated with BPA and other Bisphenols of similar concern (BoSC), since early 2020, the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) and the EU Member States have started screening data on a large group of Bisphenols such as BPA, BPS & BPF for possible restricting actions to avoid the substitution of substances with similar harmful properties. BPS & BPF have been identified as BoSC and will also be restricted.

New scientific evidence regarding the hazards of and exposure to Bisphenols has been available since November 2022 and the European Chemicals Agency is starting a consultation on the proposed restriction.

The Dossier Submitter proposes a ban on placing articles and mixtures on the market containing a concentration of Bisphenols in the scope of the restriction equal to, or greater than, 10 ppm (0.001 % by weight) with a derogation for the leather industry.

The proposed concentrations limits is 500 ppm for leather articles and mixtures used for the tanning of leather for 5 years.

Once the proposed restriction comes into force, leather articles containing > 0.05% of any Bisphenol will be prohibited in the EU, from for 2025, and > 0.001 % after 2030.

Do you need any further advice? Please use the contact form below:

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