BPA and Recycled Paper – Elemental Recycled Products

Elemental has suspended toilet paper sales. Read more on our blog here.

BPA and Recycled Paper

A frequent question we get at Elemental is: does your product contain BPA (Bisphenol A)? For today’s article, we want to answer that question and explain a bit more about the health concerns associated with BPA. The short answer is that it’s smart to avoid food and drink containers with BPA, especially for infants and children. But, you do not need to be concerned with BPA in your toilet paper.

History of BPA

BPA was first synthesized by the Russian chemist Aleksandr Dianin in 1891. In 1953, chemists working independently at Bayer in Germany and GE in the US discovered that plastic could be made significantly more durable using a production technique that includes combining BPA with Phosgene gas. Over the next several decades, this durable plastic, called polycarbonate, became popular in food storage containers like plastic bottles and linings for metal-based food and beverage cans. (source)

In the early 1990’s, researchers at Stanford University noticed that BPA could leach from plastic containers and contaminate the container’s contents. The leeched BPA had estrogenic hormone properties which made it potentially dangerous to people consuming food or drink from these containers.

Over the last 20 years, research has continued into the negative health effects of BPA consumption. Frustratingly, this research is still non-conclusive. However, because of the potential negative effects of BPA consumption and the ready availability of alternative food storage containers (glass, BPA-free plastic, etc.), it’s prudent to be taking proactive steps to eliminate consumption of BPA. This is especially true for infants and children whose developing bodies are less equipt to filter substances like BPA and thus any negative effects could be magnified. (source)

Chemical formula for BPA

BPA and Toilet Paper

It’s true that there are trace amounts of BPA in most toilet papers made from recycled paper. BPA is used in the heat printing process used to print many cash register receipts. When these receipts are placed in recycling bins, they end up in the input stream for making recycled paper.

Unfortunately, it is prohibitively expensive to source BPA-free used paper. It would also go against our goal of supporting the recycling ecosystem. We want to make recycling more economically viable to encourage more recycling. The recycling system today is not set up to collect only BPA-free paper. If we did source BPA-free paper, it would have to be pre-consumer paper, which is not consistent with closed loop consumption. Fortunately, we are able to take steps in our production process to eliminate most receipt paper from entering our product.

The important thing to know is that BPA is principally a concern for ingestion, which is why the FDA recommends not using food and liquid storage that contains BPA. Topical exposure to small amounts of BPA is not a concern (i.e. holding or wiping with toilet paper). More specifically, the max BPA measured in recycled toilet paper is 0.0045%. OHSA (the Occupational Safety and Health Administration) states that exposure to BPA in concentrations of less than 0.1% is not a concern. (source)

All of this leads us to conclude that you do not need to be concerned about BPA in toilet paper! We looked at this very closely before launching our company and were confident enough in this conclusion to bring our product to market.

To further prevent yourself from ingesting BPA from toilet paper, it’s a good practice to wash your hands after using recycled toilet paper. We’d like to think you were already doing this--but if you are not, please start!

Steve Poleskey - Founder

Photo by Jonathan Chng on Unsplash

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