Book jacket design for Tomas Cizek's The Ruse
BPA- isn't that the stuff that's toxic?
WHAT IS BPA? (and BPS!?)
Bisphenol-A (BPA) is a synthetic, industrial chemical that is used in the making of many commercial products, such as plastic containers, resins used to line the inside of cans, as a coating on thermal receipt paper, and as an additive for many personal care products. Bisphenol-S (BPS) is a popular substitute for BPA, but is just as toxic.
What can it do?
BPA and BPS have been found to have reproductive, developmental, and endocrine-disrupting effects in human and animal studies. These phenols are especially harmful for pregnant women, nursing women, women who are trying to become pregnant, youth, and adolescents. Green America has found that its effects were serious enough for the European Commission to call for a ban of all phenols by 2020.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Q: WHY IS THERE BPA IN RECEIPTS... & ALL THOSE OTHER PRODUCTS?
A: BPA is used as a coating on thermal paper receipts to act as a developer so that text can appear when heated, without using ink. BPA is in a lot of containers because it can help create strong polycarbonate plastics. BPA is found in the resin that lines canned goods because it protects the metal and prevents it from corroding. The problem is that it can leach into food or drink inside the container. BPA is also in many personal care products. Scientists suspect it is being added as an anti-microbial agent, as parabens and phenols (compounds with similar structures) are used for this reason, though it may also be leaching from the container.
I'M OVERWHELMED BY ALL OF THIS! WHAT CAN I DO?
A: We are overwhelmed too! But stay calm, we've got some easy ways to keep you and your community safer. First, check out our ways to Reduce Exposure and our Take Action page! In addition, there are many organizations doing great work to make consumer and industrial products safer through education and advocacy, such as Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families. Connect to an organization that inspires you to pressure industry and government to make responsible changes that keep our bodies and planet healthier.
Q: HOW CAN I TELL IF A PRODUCT HAS BPA, Bps, OR OTHER TOXICANTS?
A: Unfortunately there really isn't any way to know which products have BPA in them. Eating fresh produce and avoiding canned goods is one way to reduce BPA exposure, as well as not handling receipts. Purchasing makeup and personal care and home care products with fewer ingredients and ingredients that are easier to pronounce will have less additives and potentially harmful chemicals. Reduce your exposure to endocrine disruptors by avoiding products that have phenols, benzophenones, parabens, phthalates, and fragrance. (Fragrance sounds so benign but it often contains phthalates!) Healthier products are often sold at health food stores or food co-ops, or in the health food section of larger grocery stores.
Q: HOW CAN I TELL IF MY RECEIPT paper has BPA or BPS?
A: When you scratch receipt paper with something like a penny or paperclip, (or your fingernail, if you dare!) on a hard surface, if it leaves a mark then it is thermal paper. However, there is no clear way to determine without scientific testing if the receipt has a BPA/BPS coating. It’s very common, so chances are good that your paper has it. Around 93% of paper receipts are coated with either BPA or BPS, which is close enough to BPA to worry many scientists.
Q: DO PEOPLE REALLY DO THOSE weird THINGS WITH THE RECEIPTS THAT WE SAW IN THE VIDEO?
A: Yes! Our science advisor Dr. Laura Vandenberg of UMass, Amherst recently conducted an observational study on students in the college food courts. What she found was that most people were holding on to their receipts longer than what would be recommended, and about 2% of the people observed used their receipts in ways that were never intended and that would increase the rate of BPA absorption into the body.
"One individual used a receipt to blot the grease from his pizza and finally one individual used a receipt to stop bleeding from a small cut on his hand."
Every misuse of a receipt in this film came directly from this research team's observations!
"One subject was observed taking the receipt, rolling it into a cylinder and using it as a drinking straw."
Q: I'VE SEEN PRODUCTS THAT SAY 'BPA FREE'. DOES THAT MAKE THEM SAFER ALTERNATIVES?
A: Not likely! Often manufacturers will replace BPA with similar chemicals like BPS (Bisphenol-S) or BPF (Bisphenol-F); studies show that these can have similar harmful effects. Consumers should be careful not to assume that BPA-free means the product is safe. In fact, a recent study by Ecology Center shows that of over 200 receipts tested, over 75% of them now have BPS! In addition, one study found that 88% of human exposure to BPS comes from handling receipts! If a product is described as Phenol-Free it won't have these particular compounds. There are better alternatives for receipt paper and going paperless is the safest option. See our Take Action page for more deets.
q: Are There companies who already made the switch?
A: Yes! Trader Joe's has recently committed to change due to requests from our partners at Ecology Center and Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families! Best Buy also converted to a BPA and phenol free system with new protocols.
Q: Was that baby in the video sucking on a real receipt?
A: No babies or pregnant women were exposed to BPA during the making of this video! We made fake receipts for these actors.
Q: WHY DOES HAND SANITIZER INCREASE THE RATE OF ABSORPTION OF BPA INTO THE BLOODSTREAM?
Hand sanitizer has dermal penetration enhancing chemicals, so when used when handling receipts, especially when followed by eating, much more is absorbed into your skin and body. But it isn't just hand sanitizer that increases exposure - moisture of any kind (from food grease or even water!) makes it 10x easier for hands to absorb BPA and BPS! (See page 3 of the report). Also stay clear of lotions when handling receipts!
Q: How can I be sure whether there’s BPA in my body?
A: BPA metabolites are detectable in almost everyone's urine. So you likely have been exposed as well. The only way to know for certain is to do a urine screening (Ecology report, p 4); this is how scientists discovered that cashiers were absorbing more BPA than the general population due to their increased exposure.
“Cashiers, waiters, bank tellers and many other employees handle as many as 30 receipts per hour”-that really adds up at the end of the day!. (Ecology report, p 14).