PFAS-coated clothes that are thrown away will often end up either incinerated or in landfill. Unless incinerated at very high temperatures (>1000oC), fluorinated polymers could release more harmful PFAS during burning. PFAS of environmental concern have also been found in landfill leachate. PFAS is found in treated waste water from industrial and domestic sources and has been found in both rivers and groundwater. Conventional drinking water processes will not remove PFAS.Small quantities of PFAS will be removed during wash and wear of products containing PFAS. This includes fluorinated polymers used on stain-resistant coatings, and non-polymers that remain on clothes after production (Lassen et al. 2015).Non-polymer PFAS can build up in blood protein of animals, and is not always removed quickly. This means that predators eating PFAS-contaminated food will have higher levels in their bloodstream, and concentrations can increase up the food chain. Studies suggest that build up of PFAS is similar to those of other Persistent Organic Pollutants such as DDT.PFAS are estimated to be settling in arctic regions at rates of tens to hundreds of kilograms per year (25-850kg per year), depending on the specific PFAS chemical in question. Certain PFAS are released as gases to the environment and are blown a long way by wind and air currents in the atmosphere,. These gas PFAS will over time degrade to more persistent chemicals like PFOS and PFOA. This may be one reason why PFAS of environmental concern have been found in remote regions such as the Arctic as well as near PFAS production sitesPFAS including PFOS and PFOA have been found in air samples around Europe. The chemicals are found in small quantities, but appear in almost all samples tested. PFAS enters the atmosphere both from factories and the air inside our homes. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17554424 Non-polymer PFAS are used in the production of fluorinated polymers. The manufacture of stain-resistant finishes generally releases these PFASs into the environment, both by air and water emissions. They are very hard to remove during water treatment. Workers in textiles factories are some of the population most exposed to these potentially harmful chemicals.

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© Scott Currie

Bisphenols & Covid-19: Have our paper receipts become obsolete?

At a time when all unnecessary contact should be avoided and payments can be made with the wave of a card or a phone, how many of us are now taking our receipts home? We explore why paper receipts might soon be obsolete.

Have we reached the end of the till roll?

We’ve all seen it. Paper receipts clogged up in the dispenser at self-check-out counters. But in 2020, have you noticed the pile being higher than usual? Or perhaps when you are at the checkout, you’re refusing your receipts more often? When it has become our duty to manage our hygiene and keep contact to a minimum, are receipts just another risk we’re not willing to take? And why would we! Phone payments allow an instant record to be kept safely in our pockets and more and more retailers will even email our receipts directly to us: no paper, no fuss. But is there another reason why it’s time to make our paper receipts a thing of the past, bisphenols.

What are bisphenols?

Receipts often contain industrial chemicals known as bisphenols. These chemicals help printed text show up on paper, but growing evidence has shown that they may also pose a serious threat to both the environment and our health.

Bisphenols are a group chemicals manufactured for use in thermal paper and some plastics. The most well studied, and perhaps the most well recognised, is bisphenol-A (BPA). Research has found BPA to be an ‘endocrine disruptor’, meaning it can interfere with the hormonal systems of humans and wildlife, threatening normal growth and development [1]. BPA has also been classified by the EU as ‘toxic for human reproduction[2].   BPA’s widespread use in everyday items has led to it being detected in almost every individual tested [3]. Concern over the impacts of BPA had grown so strong, that in January 2020, it was banned from use in receipts across the EU. But unfortunately, the tale doesn’t end here.

From BPA, to BPS

BPA is only one of many bisphenols. Recent studies from the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) has found that BPA is now commonly being replaced with bisphenol-S (BPS) [4]. BPS has a very similar structure to BPA and from early research, is suspected of having similarly damaging effects [1]. In fact, Switzerland has already banned BPS in receipts in light of such concerns and it is now also being reviewed by the EU for classification as an endocrine disrupting chemical, just like its near identical twin, BPA. If this cycle of assessing each chemical one at a time continues, we are destined to leave ourselves and the environment vulnerable for many years to come.

And here’s the kicker, bisphenols aren’t necessary in receipts! Alternatives that are completely free of all bisphenols are already available. Some supermarkets and high street stores have started making the move to bisphenol-free options ahead of legislation, proving that it can be done!

Where do we go from here?

There is still a long way to go before we can see an end to bisphenol pollution from receipts but it is encouraging to see the examples set by some retailers and here at Fidra we are doing all we can to urge others to follow their lead.

In the meantime, if you want to help tackle bisphenol pollution, you can! Here’s how:

  • Ditch the receipt. If you don’t need a receipt, say so and help reinforce the message to retailers.
  • If you do need a receipt, keep them safe and limit contact with the skin as much as possible.
  • Bin them, don’t recycle them. Unless you know your retailer isn’t using bisphenols (you can find out what retailers are using from our table), we recommend not to recycle receipts so bisphenols don’t reappear in recycled products.
  • Spread the message! Keep the conversation going by encouraging your friends and family to do the same.

 

Whilst one receipt alone may not seem to present much of a threat, the risk lies in the cumulative effects of regular exposure to bisphenols, amongst other harmful chemicals found in our day-to-day products. Every day that goes by, the more we put ourselves and the environment at an unnecessary risk. We know that bisphenols in receipts aren’t necessary and that safer alternatives are available. The solutions are ready and waiting for us, and now’s the time to take them!

Find out more about bisphenols, their impacts, and the retailers who are avoiding them.

 

References:

[1] ‘From BPA to BPZ: a toxic soup?’, CHEM Trust, 2018

[2] ECHA, 2018 https://echa.europa.eu/hot-topics/bisphenol-a

[3] Mendum, T., Stoler, E., VanBenschoten, H. and Warner, J.C., 2011. Concentration of bisphenol A in thermal paper. Green Chemistry Letters and Reviews, 4(1), pp.81-86.

[4] ‘Bisphenol S has replaced bisphenol A in thermal paper’, ECHA, 2020

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