I’m not gonna lie. I’m a little freaked out by this whole BPA thing. I’m about fifteen years late for being freaked out, but now that I’m here, there’s no turning back. It seems Bisphenol-A has been used as a coating inside things like plastic baby bottles and cans for food and beverages since the 1960’s. And, since it can leach into our food, that means when I was a baby I likely sucked BPA down with my formula. The first reports about how it might be bad for us came out in the 1990’s.
Guess I hadn’t been paying attention.
I wish I could return to those days when I was oblivious to how BPA, that little old endocrine-disruptor that can throw a person’s hormone-system out of whack, is floating around inside almost all of us. I wish I still had no clue about how it can cause things from reproductive problems to developmental delays to obesity to diabetes and so on and so forth. And, I so wish I hadn’t found out that, not only is the synthetic form of estrogen inside cans and plastic food containers, it’s on recycled paper products, like toilet paper, too!
Just a few days ago I felt like I’d won one for the environment after I’d convinced my husband to switch from Charmin to Marcal. It’s better for the planet, I said. It’s made with 100% recycled paper, I said.
The problem is that cash register receipts and other types of thermal paper get thrown in with paper recyclables, contaminating the whole lot with a powdered form of BPA. So now I’m not sure if switching to Marcal is the right move. I can only imagine what my husband will say when I break that to him. It took a lot of finessing on my part to get him to say yes to Marcal, which he did mostly so I’d stop talking about toilet paper. Now, not only am I not sure about switching, but we may have to rethink toilet paper entirely. My biggest wish at the moment is that someone else give him that update.
My husband responded with a long sigh and then this: “Sounds like we’ve always been exposed to BPA. Is it really that big a deal?” He rested his arm on the banister atop the stairs to the loft, looking towards me and my desk and my opened laptop through the eyes of a guy who’d seen it all before.
“I don’t know,” I said.
“And yet you’re freaking out.”
He had a point. In fact, most toilet paper in public restrooms are made from post-consumer recyclables, which means most of us get a dose of it whenever we ‘go’ outside our homes. BPA has been detected in paper currency, too. With that, in addition to the #’s 3-7 plastic food containers that things like DD smoothies come in, there are more ways of being exposed to BPA, or its substitute, Bisphenol-S, (which, as it turns out, is no better,) than there are tweets by Donald Trump.
“Why don’t you just email Marcal and ask if their TP has BPA in it?”
“I did. They never got back to me.” I couldn’t hide my frustration. “It really bothers me when companies don’t reply to my emails.”
“You’ve said.” From his grimace + head nod he had more sympathy for Marcal right then. “So, what are the alternatives? And before you even go there, we’re not stock piling corncobs!”
I laughed, although his somber expression said that he wasn’t joking. But he’d made me wonder: With all the corn fields around, why wouldn’t there be corn toilet paper. “They have TP made from bamboo, hemp, and sugarcane. It probably wouldn’t be that much of a leap.”
“Why do I even open my mouth?” The question seemed to have been directed at heaven, so I didn’t answer.
Before paper mills made toilet paper, people actually had used things like corncobs, stones, pages from the Sears and Roebuck catalog, and so on. (And we today think recycled-paper TP is rough.) When mills started making paper products for personal hygiene, they continued to use the wood pulp/reclaimed paper combo that they had for making printing paper and stationary. But these days with concerns over BPA and our vastly depleting forests, some companies have started making TP, tissues and such out of other materials. I don’t know whether choosing one raw material over another makes a company any greener. It’s on my list of things to find out. But at the moment I typed corn toilet paper into the search bar on my laptop and hit the return key, I felt the tingle of what might be a brilliant idea run through my finger tips.
My Google search came back with nothing.
“Does that mean I’m the first person to think of it–––ever?”
“And you’re surprised?”
“Um…yeah! Aren’t you?”