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The Benefits of Thermal Paper which is both BPA and BPS Free
Bisphenol A (BPA) is a chemical compound which mimics the effects of natural estrogen in humans and animals. It is widely used as a color developer in the production of thermal paper. Repeated studies across the globe have observed that the presence of BPA (even at very low levels) correlates positively with a wide range of negative health outcomes in humans and animals. When used in thermal paper BPA presents as 'free", that is non-polymerized, and hence more available for absorption through the skin. Touching and handling BPA-laden thermal paper causes BPA to be absorbed through the skin and also the accidental ingestion of BPA through hand-to-mouth contact. In some cases BPA found in receipt paper is shown to transfer to other paper products (such as money) although in very small levels that are not harmful to humans.
Due to the ongoing health concerns regarding BPA (the compound has been banned in several countries), in recent times it has largely been replaced in thermal paper by Bisphenol S (BPS). BPS is a chemically similar compound which also mimics the effects of estrogen. Further, as it is less efficient in its role as a color developer, thermal paper made with BPS contains 40% more chemical compound than its predecessor. Studies have also shown that BPS is 19 times more amenable to transdermal absorption than BPA. As BPS is a relatively recent market entrant, its effects have been subject to far less scientific study than its sister BPA. The net effect of this is that human beings are absorbing a greater percentage of a greater net amount of a compound which has the same biological effect as BPA in the name of their personal safety. Recent studies have confirmed that BPS is just as problematic for human health as BPA.
Specific Health Concerns related to the Use of BPA
The health hazards associated with BPA (and BPS) stem from the manner in which it triggers estrogenic pathways in the body. Essentially BPA has a hormonal effect in the biological system.
The presence of BPA in the urine and blood (even at low levels) has been shown to correlate with increased incidence of the following conditions (especially during pregnancy and early development):
- Physical, neural and behavioral defects in children exposed to BPA in the womb and in early life
- Anxiety and hyperactivity in 3 year old girls exposed in the womb and early life
- Feminization of male spatial memory
- Changes in the structure and functioning of reproductive organs in both male and females
- Type II diabetes
- Memory, learning and mood disorders
- Super sensitivity to reward effects of drugs of abuse
- Hyperactivity, attention deficit disorder
- Thyroid dysfunction
- Hormonal cancers
- Male sexual dysfunction
- Fertility and pregnancy dysfunction
- Heart disease
Animal studies have shown that the effects of BPA is transgenerational (up to 4 generations).
BPA contamination of the environment is shown to damage fish and plant life, particularly relating to growth and reproduction. In one Canadian study, BPA-contaminated freshwater was shown to yield a population of fish which was 85% female as compared to a 55% female population in non-contaminated water.
Alternatives to BPA / BPS
640,000 tons of this health-damaging thermal paper is produced annually. That is a huge amount of harmful compound available for human absorption and introduction to the environment. Thermal paper which does not contain either BPA or BPS exists and has no harmful effects and is just as effective for thermal receipts.
Choosing BPA / BPS free paper is a simple change that stymies the production and use of harmful chemicals. It is neither expensive nor inconvenient and it protects our children, families, communities and environment.