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

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