The impending doom of the ‘end of the world’ 2020 pandemic unleashed an unprecedented toilet paper frenzy. As people smuggled, hoarded and traded the elusive brick of Cottonelle Ultra ComfortCare or even a crappy, scratchy, single-ply of the cheap stuff, Americans made it clear, our toilet paper is absolutely apocalyptically essential.
But the truth is, the state of American toilet paper is pretty shitty. Transforming a tree into a piece of fluffy, white paper means solvents, chemicals and known toxins are used in the manufacturing and production processes.
Companies are taking advantage of this rarely discussed, uncomfortable topic about using the restroom in order to marginalize their cost of production while sustaining their brand image via these cheap and toxic chemicals.
Flushing Ourselves with Toxins
The most dangerous of these toxic chemicals is chlorine bleach which is used to whiten, strengthen and soften toilet paper. Chlorine bleach creates dangerous toxins such as dioxin and furans. Dioxins are extremely toxic, with risks including reproductive and developmental problems, damaging the immune system, acting as endocrine disruptors, and can be carcinogenic.
The other common toxin is formaldehyde, often used to increase wetness resistance in toilet paper. When you see strong, heavy shiny paper, or the thick and absorptive stuff, you are most likely looking at toilet paper that contains formaldehyde. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifies formaldehyde as a human carcinogen, and in 2011, the National Toxicology Program also recognized formaldehyde as a known human carcinogen. Acute exposure to formaldehyde can lead to respiratory issues and eye, nose, throat, skin irritation, but longer term exposure can lead to increased cancer risk – specifically nasopharyngeal cancer and myeloid leukemia.
Not only are these substances harmful to the human body, but they also predominantly come into contact with some of our most absorptive organs. In fact, some scientists believe a cause of recurring yeast infections in women is due to these toxic chemicals that are present in toilet paper.
What to avoid when buying toilet paper:
- “Ultra Strong” often means formaldehyde has been added
- Recycled or Post-Consumer Recycled often contains BPA
- PCF or ECP
- Bleach Derivatives PCF or ECP
- Petroleum-Based Mineral Oil
- “With Lotion” means a petroleum-based mineral oil
What to look for when buying toilet paper:
- Chlorine free
- Formaldehyde free
- Plastic free (ideal)
- Bamboo (best option)
- 100% Recycled (next best option, but without BPA)
- Tree free