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Upcoming industrial BPA ban will hurt business: report

Canada's federal government intends to limit the amount of bisphenol A (BPA) in wastewater from industry despite being warned that doing so might be bad for business, according to a report obtained by the Canadian Press.


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March 21, 2011 by Canadian Plastics

Canada’s federal government intends to limit the amount of bisphenol A (BPA) in wastewater from industry despite being warned that doing so might be bad for business, according to a report obtained by the Canadian Press.

According to the government-commissioned report, the feds are proposing a pollution prevention planning notice to control industrial releases of BPA. Last October, the government published a notice stating the goal is to keep discharges at or below 1.75 micrograms – equal to one millionth of a gram – of BPA per litre of wastewater.  

Environment Canada hired a consultant to weigh the costs and benefits of strict BPA limits in industrial wastewater. The Canadian Press obtained the consultant’s April 2010 report under the Access to Information Act.

BPA is a chemical hardener used in polycarbonate bottles, among other products. It’s been banned from PC baby bottles in Canada, and Canada was also the first country to add BPA to its toxic substances list.

The consultant’s report looked at two ways companies could lower their discharges of BPA. The first was to collect BPA-tainted wastewater and dispose of it away from the site; the estimated average cost of this process is $297,000 per year. The second option was to switch to a wax substitute without any BPA in it, which could cost anywhere from $865,000 to $9 million per year. Whichever strategy was pursued, the report noted, “absorbing these costs internally significantly erodes at profitability to the point where the impacted facilities are vulnerable to closure.”

And the end result won’t amount to much anyway. The consultant’s report also determined that regulations would give only modest protection to the environment; since between 80 and 99 per cent of the chemical would biodegrade in the wastewater before it ever gets into the natural environment, very little BPA is left to leak into the sewers.

Environment Canada, which declined an interview request from the Canadian Press, said in an emailed statement that the report has helped the department make “informed decisions” about regulating BPA in industrial wastewater. “It is for this reason that a regulation is no longer considered the most appropriate or cost-effective risk management instrument to manage industrial releases of BPA,” spokesman Henry Lau said in an email.