Published on June 10th, 2013 | by Guest Contributor


Potty Talk: Is Toilet Paper Toxic?

Anyone else feel that at every turn we learn about more things that are going to kill us? The berries from Costco are contaminated, indoor air is polluted, and now we have to wonder if toilet paper is toxic. A few stories prompted me to look into this issue, and I was actually pretty confused by what I found.

According to this article from Bottom Line Secrets, “Researchers looked at hundreds of samples of common paper products—paper towels, napkins, newspapers, magazines, flyers, tickets, luggage tags, business cards, envelopes, currency, facial tissues and, yes, toilet paper—and found that the vast majority contained BPA and/or BPS.” But why?

As we’ve all become more conscious of recycling, increasing more things are being recycled, including potentially contaminated thermal paper receipts (the ones from most grocery stores). This thermal paper (and potentially the ink) has a solid amount of BPA, and when it get recycled with regular paper, the final result is contaminated as well.

A scientific aside: For those of you new to this topic, BPA and BPS (bisphenol A and bisphenol S) are endocrine disruptors, a type of chemical that is often confused with our natural hormones. BPA can interrupt normal connections between hormones, and it has been linked to numerous diseases, including childhood obesity. It is most commonly found in the linings of canned foods, but also in other bottles and containers. It can enter our body by ingestion (like the canned food) but it also is transmitted through out skin too, which is why it’s important to NOT have it in our toilet paper! According to this article on Mother Earth News, “BPA is derived from petroleum [and] is an extremely reactive chemical that has the shape that any biochemist will look at and say, ‘This chemical will act as an estrogen-mimicking hormonal chemical [and] a cancer-causing chemical.'”

A related article on The Healthy Home Economist suggests that in order to avoid the dangers of recycled toilet  paper, we should be buying toilet paper from virgin pulp. But is this really the best solution? According to this post from the Guardian UK (which is too funny not to post in full): “The tenderness of the delicate American buttock is causing more environmental devastation than the country’s love of gas-guzzling cars, fast food or McMansions, according to green campaigners. At fault, they say, is the US public’s insistence on extra-soft, quilted and multi-ply products.” And in this article from the New York Times, Greenpeace notes that, “Kimberly Clark, the maker of two popular brands, Cottonelle and Scott, has gotten as much as 22 percent of its pulp from producers who cut trees in Canadian boreal forests where some trees are 200 years old.” Apparently it’s the Americans to blame (again) for the destruction of forests for our poor, sensitive booties; in the same Guardian article Allen Hershkowitz, a senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council says, “I really do think it is overwhelmingly an American phenomenon. People just don’t understand that softness equals ecological destruction.”

Moms Go Green is similarly confounded, and offers a few solutions: either buy a bidet or use reusable cloth ‘napkins.’ Hmmm, neither is totally appealing, unfortunately! What about making sure you answer the call of the wild and then shower? You could eliminate the need for TP while getting everything else clean too. I do my part by peeing in the shower (don’t tell my boyfriend!). This saves at least a few squares a day… and I can save more if I get to pee while surfing or swimming! Otherwise, I just try to use my (recycled) squares judiciously. Maybe we could look into getting a bucket like they do in many Southeast Asian countries..? Any other suggestions to add to this potty talk…?

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