Reviewing Exposure to BPA in Drinking Water in Gallons
The discourse on the revision of BPOM Regulation No. 31/2018 emerged amid a growing concern on the dangers of exposure to BPA in processed food packaging.
The finding of exposure to Bisphenol-A (BPA) in drinking water in gallons has worried the public in a number of areas. To ensure the safety of drinking water from gallons, the regulation on the labeling of processed food needs to be revised.
JAKARTA, KOMPAS — The use of water gallons made of polycarbonate is still a matter of debate. Therefore, in-depth studies and scientific data related to the impact of using water gallons are needed. The policy considerations should prioritize public safety and health.
"The regulation of BPA labeling is needed as a form of mitigating the risk of potential dangers of exposure to BPA," said Rita Endang, deputy for the supervision of processed food at the National Agency of Drug and Food Control (BPOM) in Jakarta on Wednesday (21/9/2022). Exposure to BPA in the body is harmful to health as it might lead to cancer, reproductive and brain disorders, cardiovascular disorders and kidney disease.
The results of BPOM testing in 2021 and 2022 show that drinking water sold in gallons made of polycarbonate contaminated with BPA and migration of BPA in gallons made of polycarbonate exceeded the threshold. In BPOM Regulation Number 20 of 2019 concerning Food Packaging it is stated that the BPA migration limit on polycarbonate packaging is 0.6 parts per million (ppm) per liter and the BPA level in water is 0.01 ppm.
According to Rita, the BPOM is reviewing a revision of BPOM Regulation Number 31 of 2018 concerning Processed Food Labels before submitting it to the President. “The duties and functions of the BPOM are to formulate NSPK (norms, standards, procedures and criteria) for food safety, quality, labels and advertisements. Gallons made of polycarbonate can cause BPA migration in water,” she said.
The regulation on packaging is mainly to ensure that product health and safety is under the authority of the BPOM.
She added that revision of the regulation on processed food labels has nothing to do with business competition. “There is an official letter from the KPPU [Business Competition Supervisory Commission] to the BPOM that there is no element of business competition. The regulation on packaging is mainly to ensure that product health and safety is under the authority of the BPOM," she said.
The discourse on the revision of BPOM Regulation No. 31/2018 emerged amid a growing concern on the dangers of exposure to BPA in processed food packaging. The results of the BPA migration test on drinking water in gallons made from polycarbonate by the BPOM shows that there were six regions in Indonesia with BPA content exceeding the 0.6 ppm threshold, including in Medan, Bandung, Jakarta, Manado, Banda Aceh and Southeast Aceh.
Rita said that from the BPOM test results, samples of gallons that were a risk to health were obtained at production facilities and distribution facilities. In addition, it was also found that the level of exposure to BPA in drinking water in gallons exceeded the daily intake tolerance limit for infants in four districts in Indonesia.
Feni Fatria (38), a resident of North Meruya, Jakarta, is worried about the government's slow action in responding to the finding of BPA-contaminated drinking water in gallons. Moreover, she had no choice but to consume drinking water from gallons because the piped water in her house had problems with cleanliness.
"There are days when the dirty water has fine, black grains," said the mother of one child. Since there was a lot of news about the migration of BPA into drinking water in gallons, she is now boiling the water from gallons to eliminate harmful substances.
Recently, there was a suggestion for regulations to be made more stringent in the form of a ban on the use of polycarbonate packaging.
In response to such a concern, Rita said the revision of BPOM Regulation No. 31/2018 was needed so that producers are required to label "potentially contains BPA" on food containers made from polycarbonate. Recently, there was a suggestion for regulations to be made more stringent in the form of a ban on the use of polycarbonate packaging.
However, the director of Beverage, Tobacco Products and Refreshing Materials at the Industry Ministry, Edy Sutopo, questioned the urgency of the revision of the regulation as experts were still divided on the danger of BPA on health. Government agencies also have a different opinion regarding the discourse on the revision of the regulation.
"What kind of urgency, we don't know yet. There have been no prominent health cases triggered by the exposure to BPA. Experts also don’t have the same language about the dangers of BPA," he said.
Therefore, Edy said, a thorough study on the dangers of BPA requires manufacturers to label their product packaging with hazardous BPA content. Migration of BPA from gallons made of polycarbonate to water usually occurs at high temperatures or 40 degrees celsius with a heat exposure period of 10 consecutive days.
"The possibility of such cases in Indonesia is very small. The temperature is not that high and the distribution period from the factory to the consumer is usually not that long,” he said.
According to Edy, the discourse on the revision of the BPOM regulation needs to be handled carefully so as not to cause economic harm to producers. For producers and businesses, the plan to label BPA in polycarbonate packaging can disrupt business continuity.
“If labeling is required, it will give an image as if the product is unhealthy. People who don't know the exact issue will be afraid to consume it and won’t want to buy the product,” said Edy.
If the government prohibits the use of water gallons made of polycarbonate, it could cause an economic loss to people in the business. Manufacturers had to recall about 170 million reusable gallons to replace them according to the new standards. Consumers have to pay more to buy water in gallons.
Producers can be required to stick gallon placement instructions on the packaging or through social media.
Instead of requiring BPA labeling, Edy suggested increasing education so that the public will be more careful about storing gallons made of polycarbonate, such as placing them away from direct sunlight to prevent BPA migration from the packaging to water. Producers can be required to stick gallon placement instructions on the packaging or through social media.
The chairman of the Association of Bottled Drinking Water Companies, Rachmat Hidayat, said that the revision of the BPOM regulation was like a "death sentence" for bottled drinking water companies. It is estimated that if the company has to switch from using polycarbonate packaging to other materials, such as polyethylene terephthalate (PET), the cost could reach between Rp 6 to 10 trillion (US$400-665 million). "There are no businesses who can afford that. More than 90 percent of our businesses are small businesses," he said.
According to a professor of the Department of Food Science and Technology at IPB University, Nuri Andarwulan, the policy of eliminating BPA in gallons made from polycarbonate needs to consider scientific data and in-depth studies as the policy will have a huge impact on the public.
“Some scientific data needs to be collected regarding the policy of packaging without BPA. This is related to the study of exposure to BPA in the community, economic studies and the government's efforts to provide healthy drinking water for residents," he said.
In addition to BPA levels in drinking water in polycarbonate gallons, the level and duration of exposure to BPA in the community also has health risks. Referring to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) in 2021, the tolerance threshold for daily intake of BPA is 0.000004 micrograms per kilogram of body weight per day. "It is necessary to ensure the level of TDI BPA in the community drinking water from gallons,” said Nuri.
“The government has not been able to provide healthy water for the community. Piped water cannot be consumed in Indonesia; it can even be more dangerous because it contains certain chemical compounds,” she added. (TAN/AGE/AIN/NSA/RTG/ OKA/GIO/ERK)