Dominique Browning writes an important article in the New York Times about the problem of getting rid of Bisphenol A (BPA) but replacing it with alternatives that may not be any better, or in fact might be worse. For example, TreeHugger has written positively about Appleton's BPA-free thermal paper for reciepts; in fact, Browning writes that we may just be substituting one risk for another.
Consider the thermal paper that comes out of cash registers. Its BPA passes through the skin into the bodies of anyone who works at check-out counters, as well as their customers. Appleton, a specialty paper company, markets a BPA-free thermal paper that uses Bisphenol S instead. The Environmental Protection Agency has a voluntary program that is evaluating BPS and 17 other possible substitutes for thermal paper, but has not yet completed its analysis. Until it does, it will not endorse any alternatives.
In the few, limited tests conducted outside the United States, BPS shows estrogenic activity -- not as strong as BPA, but not a good sign. BPS is now used in the United States to make PES (polyethersulfone) plastic. Some baby bottles marketed as BPA-free use PES plastic.
Companies are under no obligation to prove that these chemicals are safe; the precautionary principle does not apply in America. Browning writes:
The system is broken. We must reverse the process: test first. And we should allow only chemicals proven to be safe into the marketplace.
I will be asking Appleton Papers for their opinion of the New York Times article.
More on Bisphenol A and Paper
Get Bisphenol A Out of the Grocery Store (Are You Listening, Whole Foods?)
High Levels Of BPA Found In Cash Register Receipts, What You Can Do To Protect Yourself
For BPA, Exposure Matters; Handling Receipts and Eating Canned Foods Pose Greatest Danger
More Than You Paid For: BPA Found in Cash Register Receipts