Occupational Exposure to BPA: Are You at Risk in Your Workplace

Those who work in factories that manufacture BPA, polycarbonate plastic and epoxy resins may have questions about occupational exposure to BPA. 
In facilities that produce BPA or materials made with BPA, primary exposure controls are designed into the manufacturing process. These processes are closed, and therefore the potential for exposure to BPA around these manufacturing processes is low. The limited exposure that may occur is primarily associated with dust inhalation and skin contact when BPA is handled outside of these manufacturing processes (for example, sampling, bagging, loading/unloading, plant maintenance activities, etc.).
Neither the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) nor the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) has established exposure limits specifically for BPA. However, both organizations have exposure limits for dust (OSHA-15 mg/m3; ACGIH-10 mg/m3), which is the form of BPA that workers are most likely to contact. In addition, exposure limits specific for BPA have been established in Europe (2 mg/m3 for Europe and 5m g/m3 for Germany). 
Should BPA occupational exposure occur, we know from extensive government research, along with the results of other studies that BPA is efficiently converted in the body to a biologically inactive metabolite, and that inactive metabolite is rapidly eliminated from the body in urine. BPA is not expected to accumulate in the body over time and there is limited potential for BPA to cause long-term health effects. In fact, for consumers, FDA recently answered the question: “Is BPA safe?” with a clear answer – “Yes.”

BPA Exposure Research: The NIOSH Study

In 2013-2014, the CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) conducted research on occupational exposure to BPA at six U.S. companies that make BPA or BPA-based materials. The study monitored occupational exposure to BPA in 77 workers from these companies through a series of urine samples collected over two consecutive work days from each worker, as well as samples that measured the presence of BPA in the workplace. 
Importantly, the results of the study confirm that all worker exposures measured in these facilities were below government established occupational exposure guidance values. In addition, more than 99% of BPA detected in urine was in the form of the biologically inactive metabolite, which confirms that the important metabolic process to rapidly eliminate BPA from the body also occurs in workers. The study is not relevant for consumers who are only exposed to trace levels of BPA.

BPA Toxicity Research: The Korea OSHA Study

In 2017, researchers from the Korea Occupational Safety and Health Agency (K-OSHA) published the results of a large-scale study on inhalation toxicity of BPA in rats. The test animals were exposed to respirable particles of BPA under conditions intended to simulate workplace exposures (5 days/week and 6 hours/day for 8 weeks) at air concentrations of 10-90 mg/m3. Even at these exaggerated concentrations that are well above exposure limits for BPA, no BPA-related toxic effects were found for either male or female rats. The researchers reported that the no observable adverse effect level was above the highest level tested. Although the results of this comprehensive study showed no adverse effects at high air levels, recommended workplace practices provided in BPA Safety Data Sheets to control exposure should be followed.