A worrying new report from the Dutch current affairs program File EenVandaag has revealed that millions of syringes may be leaching the hormone disruptors BADGE (bisphenol A diglycidyl ether) and BPA (bisphenol A).
The syringes, produced by Japanese manufacturer Terumo at their Belgian site, are widely used in European and US healthcare. Millions are thought to be currently in use. A whistleblower has revealed that one in five syringes may be leaking epoxy resin, which then releases BPA and BADGE. The issues are thought to have existed for over four years.
Concerns over health risks
The substances in question have been linked to a number of health problems. Studies have shown that BPA is a strong endocrine disrupting chemical (EDC) with the power to affect the action of estrogen and the estradiol hormone. Exposure has been linked to an increase in the rate of developmental cancers, reproductive impairments, neurological and behavioural disorders, cardiovascular diseases, obesity and diabetes, as stated in our Factsheet on BPA in Medical Devices.
Exposure through Terumo syringes is not an isolated case. Many other medical devices in common use are thought to be leaching BPA and other hormone disrupting chemicals like phthalates. Incubators, ventilation pumps, dialysis equipment as well as tubings, IV bags and catheters are just a few examples of devices that routinely expose patients to these harmful substances.
Phasing out hazardous chemicals from medical devices
Health Care Without Harm Europe has campaigned for the phase-out of hazardous chemicals from healthcare for several years. We believe that it is unacceptable that medical devices designed to heal could be inadvertently harming us. When safer alternatives exist, we must use them!
Now, there is an opportunity to phase out substances that are carcinogenic, mutagenic and reprotoxic (CMR) and substances that disrupt the endocrine system (EDCs), like phthalates and BPA. A new European Commission proposal for a regulation on medical devices is being debated in the European Council whilst the European Parliament, in its report, has already called for the phase-out of hazardous chemicals contained in medical devices when safer alternatives exist. It is therefore time for Member States to follow suit.
This year, HCWH Europe launched the Safer Medical Devices Database, which provides free information on PVC and BPA-free medical devices. We encourage healthcare procurers to use this free, open-access resource to substitute hazardous chemicals with safer alternatives in their facilities.