So you got rid of all #7 plastics, banned canned food from your kitchen, and even stopped taking cash register receipts, all in an effort to banish bisphenol A (BPA), a hormone-disrupting chemical linked to cancer, sexual dysfunction, and all sorts of other human health problems. Well, unless you’re willing to get rid of all your cash, you’re not going to succeed in making your life BPA-free. A new report from the Washington Toxics Coalition reveals that nearly all dollar bills are tainted with BPA, reports Treehugger.

The news, if rather anxiety-inducing, isn’t exactly surprising. After all, nearly all dollar bills are tainted with cocaine, thanks to ATM machines that spread the white stuff around. BPA is much more common than cocaine — at least in most people’s households. Add that about half of all receipts contain BPA — and that receipts often get handed back with your change at checkout lines — and it only makes sense that BPA has made its way onto most dollar bills.

Whether you’re surprised or not, this study — dubbed “On the Money: BPA in Dollar Bills and Receipts” (PDF) — should drill into your head a couple of important enviro-truisms. The first: You can’t buy your way out of environmental pollution. Sure, you can buy BPA-free reusable bottles, Teflon-free pans, and phthalate-free perfume, but you’ll only be able to reduce, not eliminate, the environmental pollution in your life until these dangerous chemicals are banned altogether. After all, the BPA in receipts and dollar bills is no small issue. According to “On the Money,” “skin absorption from thermal paper receipts with unbound BPA may lead to exposure at levels equivalent to exposure from food sources.”

The second: The solutions are rarely simple. Just as buying BPA-free food and drink containers won’t completely protect you from BPA exposure in your life, bans on individual chemicals won’t solve our environmental health issues. That’s not to say a BPA ban is useless — we should certainly fight to reduce and eliminate unnecessary BPA from our food containers, receipts, dollar bills and everything else. I’m simply pointing out that a BPA ban wouldn’t solve our larger chemical pollution issues. “On the Money” gives one pressing example:

Appleton Paper, which produces much of the country’s thermal paper, is one company that has publicized its elimination of BPA. The company has, however, moved to using bisphenol sulfonate, or BPS, a close chemical relative of BPA[32]. BPS has not been studied nearly as extensively as BPA, but in vitro studies indicate it may also disrupt hormones, with studies indicating it has some estrogenic and anti-androgenic properties.
Before you throw up your hands and become an eco-nihilist, rest assured that “On The Money” also recommends solutions — solutions that environmental organizations have been pushing for years. What are those solutions? The U.S. Senate’s Safe Chemicals Act (S. 3209) and the House’s Toxic Chemicals Safety Act (H.R. 5820), which would ban the worst chemicals, better regulate chemicals in consumer products, study the full risks of these chemicals, and encourage the development of safer alternative chemicals.

You can contact your elected officials about these bills. Environmental health nonprofit Environmental Working Group makes it easy to send a letter via the Web to your senators.

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