With all of the concern about Bisphenol-A (BPA), an estrogen-mimicking chemical used in some plastics, most metal food can linings, and most thermal paper receipts, manufacturers are looking for alternative materials to use so they can tout their products as BPA-free. But are the substitutes actually safer than BPA itself? The truth is, we don’t know. As I’ve written before, studies have been done suggesting that some BPA-free products produce the same or greater hormone-disrupting effects as BPA. There are two problems here: 1) The alternatives haven’t been sufficiently tested for safety before being swapped into products, and 2) Some manufacturers won’t even disclose what alternatives they are using.
Study Finds Increased Exposure to BPS as BPA is phased out
One chemical being used to replace BPA in thermal paper receipts is Bisphenol S (BPS). In May 2012, the journal Environmental Science and Technology published a study (Chunyang Liao, Fang Liu, and Kurunthachalam Kannan) testing 16 different kinds of paper products and found that levels of BPS, and our exposure to BPS, is approaching the same levels as its predecessor, BPA. The scientists did not conduct the study to determine whether BPS is safe or not but simply to see how much of it we can expect to be exposed to via paper products. Basically, the conclusion was that because we are now being exposed to such high levels of BPS, this chemical should be tested for safety.
Hold on! This is Totally Backwards!
As I was reading the study and attempting to comprehend it, I suddenly thought, This is stupid! Why do studies have to be funded to test products to find out what chemicals are being used in them? It’s not like it’s a big secret. Oh wait, yes it is. The companies that produce these products don’t like to reveal their trade secrets, and they are not required to disclose the chemicals they use. So we can’t just, you know, call them up and ask. Or can we?
Hey Campbell’s! What’s in Your New Can Lining?
The Campbell’s Soup company has announced it is phasing out BPA in its metal can linings. The problem is that it refuses to disclose what it will be using instead. And some of the possible alternatives have me worried. PVC, for example, is a possibility. But how can we know whether the replacement will be safe if we don’t even know what the replacement is? Healthy Child Healthy World is running a Facebook and Twitter campaign to urge Campbell’s to tell us what it will use instead. Please leave a message on Campbells’s wall. Learn more at Breast Cancer Fund’s Cans Not Cancer Campaign website.
Whack-a-Mole Doesn’t Work for Knocking Out Toxic Chemicals
The tactic of going after known toxic chemicals one by one is an exercise in frustration when thousands of new chemicals are being developed each year and are not proven to be safe BEFORE being placed on the market. Why are we being used as unwitting guinea pigs? I’ve written on this topic on this blog and in my book. In the United States, we do not follow the Precautionary Principle, which would require products to be proven safe before being allowed in the market. We need updated toxic chemical legislation. We as individuals can only protect ourselves so much through our choices, given the limited amount of knowledge we have.
Senator Lautenberg’s Safe Chemicals Act (S.847) is a federal bill that has been sitting in the Committee on Environment and Public Works since November of last year! It must be heard and passed before the end of the year or it will die, and activists will have to start the process all over again. Please join Safer Chemicals Healthy Families in asking your senator to support this bill. You can use the online form to send an email, or if you have a bit more time (and this really makes a much bigger difference, according to Lindsay Dahl of Safer Chemicals) call the Capitol Switchboard at (202)224-3121 to leave a voice message for your senator asking him or her to support S.847.