Tuesday, August 10, 2010

BPA in Cash Regsister Receipts or Not

3 H's - Hot, Hazy and Humid.

BPA, bisphenol - A, is back in the headlines, this time about its presence on thermal paper cash register receipts and its ability to rub off onto your skin. (and yes, then be absorbed)

EWG broke the news report and research, and if you google the subject, a plethora of articles will appear including the ACC's paid Google advertising trying to protect their plastic turf. No need in repeating what has already been said. I would like to take the discussion to the next level.

I've been considering an alternative to BPA thermal paper knowing the cause for concern. What little efforts I had made came to roadblocks since BPA Free paper is not well publicized. So it wasn't until the EWG article appeared that I was able to find a source for BPA-Free receipt paper. Appleton Paper Company turns out to be the world's largest supplier of thermal paper and made the switch in 2006 to ditch BPA, supposedly "out of concern for their workers." I suppose it didn't have anything to do with Japan's Paper Association and their phase out of BPA which began in 1998 and ended in 2003. Japan, the world leader in banning or phasing out BPA, may not have official laws, but Associations and corporations take it upon themselves before government intervention. (Just like Japan voluntarily changing their food cans to non-BPA linings.)

Whatever the true motivation was for Appleton to go BPA-Free, they did, and we are better for it, probably.

So they managed to take BPA out of the paper formula. But I don't see any one talking about what they replaced it with. (Just like no one talked about what SIGG used to replace their BPA lining) So after a call to Appleton, I received my answer from a lovely customer service person with a cute Wisconsin accent. The replacement chemical is diphenyl sulfone.

Next question - is it safe? and the answer is... who knows? Diphenyl sulfone is probably safer than BPA but there is so little information out there, that there are no guarantees. It is a polymer (nice word for plastic). It has been listed (though not widely used) as a pesticide. (so it kills things) One article did say it is non-mutanigenic. (oh thank goodness) So after lots of research, the conclusion I have come to is diphenyl sulfone is one of the 80,000 chemicals listed by the EPA that they have not tested. Oops, sorry, I misspoke. The EPA has tested 200 of the 80,000 chemicals they have in their data base. And a lot of other people have not tested it either.

What I also find interesting is that this paper cash register BPA story broke in August. Back on July 15th, the EPA, under their "Design for the Environment" program held a conference titled"Meeting Materials for BPA Alternatives in Thermal Paper Partnership" assessing alternatives for BPA. Now if the EPA is bothering to hold a conference on the subject, I can only ascertain that the inside scoop is that this is a serious issue.

So now what? If you are a retailer, you might consider switching to Appleton papers. Forget going to Staples, they source from all sorts of companies and you may never know which ones.

As a customer, you can say no thank you to your receipts, or touch quickly without wet hands. Do not store them touching other items that you may handle. The BPA is in powdery form and comes off easily.

And do not put receipts into the recycling bin. Recycling BPA receipts is probably why BPA is showing up in recycled paper and also in our water. Instead, throw them out (where they can be incinerated and go into the air.)

Replacing bad stuff is good. As a consumer, try to always ask yourself, "What did they replace it with?" I think we need to be asking more of those questions.


Bobbi said...

FYI, Diphenyl sulfone is another way of writing "bisphenol S" - a less estrogenic sister to bisphenol A, but apparently more persistent. Don't you love the misleading use of an alternative chemical name?

Real Green Girl Activist said...

I KNOW! I'm so mad! And this article confirms what you say and more - that BP-S may even be worse. So on my to-do list is to call that nice Wisconsin lady back and confirm this and confirm that they were very misleading. As I've said before, when something gets taken out, it's important to ask, what replaced it. Thanks for writing.

Chastity said...