Friday, April 30, 2010

BPS = BPA, more or less

Yes, it turns out that most or ALL thermal paper uses SOME form of bisphenol compound as the developer. Sigh...

Here is my rather lengthy correspondence with an Appleton executive about the topic of BPS and its use in Appleton's "BPA-free" thermal paper. I put the correspondence here in its entirety, though I realize this might be a bit dreary, as I wish for both my public stance on this issue and that of the Appleton executive to be "straight from the horse's mouth."

From: David ResSeguie
Sent: Wednesday, April 28, 2010 12:48 PM

To: Ebben, Sara

Subject: Re: Appleton - The Responsible Choice

Dear Sarah,
I would like to report that we have had success in sourcing BPA-free receipt paper through various suppliers. However, a recent letter forwarded to me from an executive of the National Checking Company has caused me some concern. This person, Ben Olk (who signs his letters "President" of National Checking) claims that ALL thermal paper uses either BPA or BPS as its developing agent.
"All thermal paper contains some form of bisphenols (BPA or BPS)," he says.
I would like to know from you if this is a true statement. That is, does all thermal paper contain some bisphenol compound as its color developing agent?
If Appleton uses another method, it would be helpful if you could explain it to me as clearly as possible. I am not, of course, asking that you reveal any trade secrets to me, but a full disclosure of the chemicals used in making your thermal paper would go a long way to assuage concerns that I and other people following this issue may have.
Thanking you in advance for your time and efforts,
I am,
Yours Sincerely,
David Resseguie
From: Hillend, James

Sent: Friday, April 30, 2010 9:13 AM

To: David ResSeguie
Cc: Ebben, Sara; Howarth, Doug; Van Den Brandt, Bill

Subject: Appleton - Responsible Choice

Dear David:
Sara Ebben forwarded your request to me.
Appleton uses a variety of chemicals to produce our thermal products, including members of the diphenyl sulfone family. This includes Bisphenol S , but not Bisphenol A, F, or any other letter. While all are bis phenols (meaning that they have 2 phenol groups) they are in many cases very different chemicals. The letter is the chemist's short hand to designate a different chemical functional group. It’s kind of like comparing methanol (wood alcohol - can destroy your optic nerve) to ethanol (stuff we can drink). While they are both alcohols, they behave very differently.

Other items that might help with the discussion on the comparison between BPA and BPS:

1.We are not aware of any regulatory body currently investigating the safety of any chemical in the diphenyl sulfone family.

2. While some in the industry have taken a position that BPS is the equivalent of BPA, what we know is that the FDA and the EPA have named BPA as being a “concern” and some senators have taken steps to introduce legislation banning BPA. No such announcements or actions regarding BPS have occurred.

3. Appleton has been watching the science and safety aspects for all of the chemicals that we use to produce our products.

4.We voluntarily removed BPA from our product formulas several years ago when concern about BPA began to grow

5.We are comfortable today with our choice of chemicals

6.We will continue to monitor the science and are committed to actively managing the safety of all of our products.

We have attached additional information that might be useful as you make purchasing decisions about the performance and safety of POS receipt papers.
Let us know if you have questions or if you require additional information

Jamie Hillend
From: David ResSeguie
Sent: Friday, April 30, 2010 5:19 PM

To: Hillend, James

Cc: Ebben, Sara

Subject: The Science on BPA and BPS

Dear Mr. Hillend,

It is of little concern to me whether "any regulatory body [is] currently investigating" the safety of a particular chemical. Regulatory agencies are notoriously overworked and understaffed, and generally only respond to issues brought to them by businesses, scientists, and consumers.
Of much greater concern to me are scientific studies of estrogenic activity of various phenol compounds which characterize BPS as "[showing] comparable estrogenic activity with BPA."
Other studies listed on NIH sites include one which finds that BPS shows the LEAST tendency to break down in seawater of any of the bishenols tested.
Another study tested the estrogenic activity of a host of bisphenol compounds, and notes in its abstract that "Among the tested BPs, two compounds, i.e., bisphenol-S (bis(4-hydroxydiphenyl)sulfone) and bis(4-hydroxyphenyl)sulfide, have never been reported for their estrogenic activity previously."
What we find depends a great deal on where we look. Me, personally, I am going to start looking for alternatives to using thermal paper in ANY context.
I must also express my disappointment at being misled in my search for safe alternatives to paper coated with BPA. As my business's technology liaison, I feel responsible for ensuring that my employees are not being exposed to unnecessary and unwarranted hazards in the workplace. Furthermore, as many of my cashiers are women of child-bearing age, it is highly distressing to think they might be bioaccumulating toxins which could affect any children they might bear.
Yours Sincerely,
David Resseguie
Subject: RE: The Science on BPA and BPS
Date: April 30, 2010 04:05:09 PM PDT
To: Sundance General Email
Cc: Sara Ebben

Dear David:

We are sorry for any impression that we were trying to mislead you on issues related to BPA and alternatives. This was certainly not our intent.
We too have been watching the science on this subject and have experienced frustration with the lack of agreement on the relative safety of diphenyl sulfone compounds and access to peer reviewed data. We have seen the referenced data below as well as other data that ranges in opinion from its “comparable to BPA” to its shows no activity. The same can be found in regards to bioaccumulation where BPA seems to have a high potential and BPS has little or no level (BPA is not water soluble as described in the Japanese study on degradation). Again, it depends upon the study. There are over 200 peer reviewed studies on BPA, less than 10 studies on BPS (not all peer reviewed).
Appleton too is concerned about the health and safety of our employees and customers. We proactively removed BPA many years ago when the data suggested an issue. We continue to watch this issue and are committed to providing the safest products to market. At this time, we are comfortable with our choice of chemicals. We have also been invited to join the EPA’s design for the Environment program, with the objective to find safer alternatives to BPA.
In the spirit of open collaboration, we have included our internal findings including peer reviewed data.
We respect your conclusion and stand ready to offer assistance on helping you find non thermal alternatives, be it bond and ink, carbonless or non paper.
Please again accept our apologies. If you have any questions or if we can help further, please don’t hesitate to contact me
Regards / Jamie Hillend
James R. Hillend
Executive Director, POS Business
825 E. Wisconsin Ave
P.O. Box 359
Appleton, WI 54912-0359
Telephone: (920) 991-7382
Fax: (920) 991-7023

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Just as I was about to concede...

Just as I was about to concede, based on a review of the literature, that BPA was only really bad for developing fetuses, along comes this study:


here's a link to the details of the study

Thanks to Ron Leppert, Sundance's Grocery Buyer, for forwarding this one to me.

Receipts in our Local News

Featuring quotes from Lisa Arkin of the Oregon Toxics Alliance, John C. Warner, chemist and co-founder of the Babcock-Warner Institute for Green Chemistry, and from your local neighborhood blogger, me.

Toxic Receipts

and in our town's daily paper, advice from local MDs, MICHAEL ROIZEN AND MEHMET OZ:

Help the environment, and help your body, too

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Here's a disturbing piece of mail

This letter was forwarded to me by the Food Service Manager of a local educational institution. It seems to be from the president of a cash register receipt paper supply company, and implies that all thermal receipt paper is equally safe. Or, if you are one of those people who think that free bisphenol compounds in the environment are not safe, it implies that all thermal receipt paper is equally unsafe. Read on:

Ben Olk III 4/23/2010 1:08 PM >>>

My Director of Production asked that I contact you regarding the question of BPA in thermal paper. There have been several media reports describing the presence of BPA in “receipt paper” in order to address this, what follows is some background information about the issues and how NCCO is addressing them.
  • Bisphenols’ function in thermal paper. All thermal paper contains some form of bisphenols (BPA or BPS). What makes thermal paper unique is the coating that is applied to the paper, which, when heated in a specific pattern, generates the image that we see. The coating is made up of a dye, a weak acid and a modifier. The BPA/BPS is the weak acid that reacts with the dye to create the image. It is important to note that the bisphenols in thermal paper are used in exponentially smaller concentrations than when used in polycarbonate plastics (i.e. baby bottles) or metals (i.e. beverage cans) to make the plastic rigid or to seal the metal on a can.
  • BPA Studies. While there has been a lot in the news recently about the harmful nature of BPA, the scientific evidence is mixed and the testing agencies around the world are contradictory in their recommendations. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has issued warnings about BPA, but they have been careful to limit their warnings to polycarbonate plastic baby bottles that have been heated. The European Union Food Safety Authority has reviewed several studies regarding the toxicity of BPA, but found the evidence to be incomplete and inconclusive ( The FDA has also examined the issue several times and has been very careful about their assessment ( The primary focus of their review has been on polycarbonate plastic bottles, where the concentration of BPA and the likelihood of ingestion are significantly higher than thermal paper. In their report, they do not draw any conclusions, but suggest that further investigations be done. Further, several studies have already been conducted by the manufacturer to assess potential health impacts of their paper. In each of these studies, the findings are conclusive: Exposure to thermal paper with bisphenol A caused no harm to any of the subjects in the tests. If you are interested, I can send the results of those tests as well.
  • BPA or BPS. As mentioned above, thermal paper either contains BPA or BPS. While the focus in today’s media is on the potentially harmful impact of BPA in plastic bottles, the two compounds are nearly identical, and there are concerns in some corners of the scientific community that BPS in plastic or metal would yield results similar to that of BPA. National Checking Company has, therefore, made a conscious determination to not allow the presence of BPA or BPS to impact our purchasing decision. The fact that both are used in such small percentages in thermal paper makes us confident that the presence of BPA or BPS has no negative impact on the health or safety of human beings.

Please know that we have been aware of this issue for several years and are confident that our products are safe. We have been in business for more than 100 years, and I would not jeopardize our reputation if I felt that the users of our products or our employees were at risk in any way. We are proud to be associated with all our suppliers, our distributors, and our end-user customers.

Please feel free to contact me directly if you have any further questions, concerns or objections. Take good care!


Ben Olk

National Checking Company

My Congressman Thinks There's Something Up

From: Congressman Peter DeFazio
Subject: Reply from Congressman Peter DeFazio
Date: April 28, 2010 10:34:40 AM PDT
To: Sundance General Email
Dear Mr. ResSeguie:

Thank you for your recent message concerning H.R. 6228, the Ban Poisonous Additives Act of 2008. I appreciate hearing from you. We are in complete agreement.

As you may know this bill would ban the toxic substance Bisphenol A from all food and beverage containers. Bisphenol A is an additive used in polycarbonate plastic products which is found in everything from baby bottles to DVD's to many popular canned foods and sodas. Recent studies by the US Centers for Disease Control showed that over 93 percent of people aged 6 and over have traces of Bisphenol A in their blood. There have also been recent reports of studies showing a connection between Bisphenol A and breast and prostate cancer, miscarriages and brain damage. Of particular concern is infants who use baby bottles that use Bisphenol A, as we are still uncertain of how a quickly a child can metabolize the chemical.

While the Bush Administrations recently announced that the chemical was safe, we now find out that the studies they used to determine this were sponsored by the plastics industry and have been roundly criticized for its flawed methodology. Furthermore legislation to ban BPA has been introduced in California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont. Also, some retailers like Wal Mart and Toys R Us have announced they will phase out selling baby bottles using Bisphenol A.

I myself recently threw away all my water bottles containing Bisphenol A and bought safer alternatives which are available at a comparable price.

When Congress reconvenes in September, I will add myself as a cosponsor to this legislation. Thanks again for contacting me and please keep in touch.

Bispehols in Seawater

Another bit of primary research from the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health:

Biodegradation of Bisphenol A, Bisphenol F and Bisphenol S in Seawater

Tangled Webs

This abstract mentions another bisphenol, "Bisphenol-S," which also has estrogenic effects, and which one of my sources (not yet corroborated) says is an alternate chemical used in cash register receipts. If there is a problem with Bisphenol-A, this article indicates that Bisphenol-S would have the same issues.

Abstract of Primary Research Article on Changes in the Effects of Various Estrogenic Phenol Compounds Subjected To Municipal Chlorine

BPA in the news - some valuable links

These are links to articles from the mainstream science news weekly Science News:





These articles, I will point out, are more in the realm of "wisping" guns, rather than smoking guns. They indicate a potential problem, but really the article on "BPA in the womb shows link to kids behavior" is a report on a single study. It indicates that "we-have-a-problem-Houston," but does not nail down the culprit. However, the post directly above has links to some primary research articles that corroborate BPA as a endocrine disruptor.

Is it safe?

Our desire to make life convenient and to surround ourselves with useful objects sometimes conflicts with what is safe, healthy and life-enhancing. This blog explores one of those conflicts.

Russian chemist A.P. Dianin first synthesized Bisphenol-A and other phenol-derived compounds in the 1890s. It has been suspected since the 1930s that this class of bisphenols (bi- means two, hence two phenols linked by and with other compounds are called bisphenols) may have a negative effect on human and animal health, but the great usefulness of these compounds has encouraged many to ignore this issue.

Bisphenol-A and related compounds are used primarily to make hard plastic, secondarily to make epoxy (glue) resins, and are also used as a coating for many food containers and a developer for the "inks" in thermal paper.

The purpose of this blog is to collate and help disseminate factual and inferential information on bisphenol compounds in our environment, what the health effects of them on humans and other animals are, and, if it is warranted, how to avoid exposure to these chemicals, and what alternatives to using them exist especially in the realms of food container linings, and thermal paper developer chemicals.

Ku - I Ching Hexagram #18

Has supreme success.
It furthers one to cross the great water.
Before the starting point, three days.
After the starting point, three days.

What has been spoiled through human fault can be made good again through work. It is not immutable fate, that has caused the state of corruption, but rather the abuse of human freedom.
Work toward improving conditions promises well, because it accords the possibilities of the time. We must not recoil from work and danger-symbolized by crossing of the great water-but must take hold energetically. Success depends, however, on proper deliberation.