Monday, August 2, 2010

Don't Touch the Paper!!!!!

This just in. Paper receipts (the kind used for ATMs, supermarket cash registers and gas stations) have high levels of bisphenol-A (BPA). An article published in The Washington Post reports that a recent study by The Environmental Working Group found BPA on 40 percent of the receipts it collected from these everyday destinations. What a mess.

BPA is cause for concern because it is considered to be an endocrine disruptor--meaning that it mimics critical hormones in the body, in this case, estrogen. Exposure to endocrine disruptors has been linked to an increased risk in contracting a number of different negative health outcomes. Specifically, BPA has been linked to an increased risk of reproductive problems and cancer.

We only just figured out that we needed to worry about BPA in beverage containers. Lawmakers in a number of countries are only now beginning to debate whether or not this chemical should be banned from such consumer products. Now we have to worry about exposure from paper? Why in the world is BPA being used in paper products such as receipts? This seems to me like another example of chemical companies doing everything they can to increase demand for an unnecessary product. We should be concerned because is this yet another illustration of our limited knowledge of
yet-to-be discovered negative human health effects from exposure to widely used chemicals. Few people realize that only a few hundred out of the tens of thousands of chemicals currently in production have ever been tested for effects in humans. This is scary stuff.

Now we will have to conduct studies to see how workers who handle these receipts all day long, such as cashiers in supermarkets, may be affected over time. And that knowledge will only give us a glimpse of how the rest of us may be affected.

I hope someday soon people will begin to realize that we need to better understand how people may be affected by these chemicals BEFORE they are widely produced and dispersed in common everyday products.

Believe me, this latest example with BPA is just the tip of the iceberg.

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