I cannot NOT comment on this story about BPA and contaminated money because it is at the heart of contamination. But on the other hand I’d rather not even mention it because as I am writing this post, identical information about the story has already been repeated 143 times in the mainstream popular press. I’m not even trying to imagine how many blogs, tweets and Facebook posts already have the keywords, and within a week how many times the same information will appear across the Web.
That’s the big problem with the Web - it easily becomes a massive printing press spewing out the exact same information billions of times. But what if the information isn’t true? Then we have a case that highlights what one person once called the danger of computing. Namely that it allows us to repeat the same mistake over and over at high speed.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like this particular story is incorrect and the only way to offer some unique content is to offer some information that is lightly or not reported at all along with perspectives and opinions.
According to Erika Schreder, a staff scientist with the Washington Toxics Coalition, money is contaminated with Bisphenol A (BPA), a material used in thermal receipt paper and water bottles as well as to line cans. The BPA on the receipt paper is not bound to it, so it comes off easily. People handle receipts and money together all the time, and receipts and money often sit together in wallets. BPA has been linked to cancer and because it disrupts hormones it is also implicated in conditions affecting reproduction and growth.
In the paper authored by Schreder and sponsored by Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, and Washington Toxics Coalition, she writes, “Because of its unregulated use, BPA now contaminates something virtually all of us use every day: paper currency. It is very likely that BPA contaminates many other objects we use regularly.”
The currency contamination affects more than just a few bills and cuts across the whole country. Of the 22 dollar bills tested, 21 tested positive for BPA. The bills were collected from 22 states and the ones from Arizona, Illinois, Massachusetts, Oregon, Washington State and Washington DC had the highest parts per million of BPA.
The irony here is that in the interest of making profits our businesses have managed to contaminate large portions of the country’s water, soil and air, and now the whole reason all that contamination happened,is also contaminated. It looks like a cashless society could be drawing closer.
But here’s a novel takeaway to this story: Everything is connected. When we drop pebbles in the water the ripples fan out and affect much more than the square inches where they landed. Life is a mosaic infinitely woven across all of us and all other sentient beings on the planet. We know that when the life cycles of amphibians, such as frogs, are interrupted there are effects across the entire natural kingdom. Humans manage to remain insulated from these small changes so that years pass before the significance emerges. But when it does, it can be very sobering.
The sponsors and author of this report are keen on having more regulation on the 80,000 chemicals used in commerce today, and perhaps more oversight is indeed needed. Still, this story mainly highlights how short sighted we cannot help being, and how much more conscious we should be about how we interact with our world.