It has been found that many sales receipts are printed on thermal paper that is coated in the chemical BPA, according to a new study released Tuesday by the Environmental Working Group
"In animal tests, scientists have produced evidence that BPA can induce abnormal reproductive system development, diminished intellectual capacity and behavioral abnormalities and can set the stage for other serious conditions, such as reproductive system cancer, obesity, diabetes, early puberty, resistance to chemotherapy, asthma and cardiovascular system disorders. It has caused epigenetic changes, meaning alterations in the way genes switch off and on and genetic changes that can be passed on to the next generations."
40 percent of the receipts tested were on thermal paper coated with BPA, and came from many outlets, including McDonald's, Walmart, U.S. Postal Service, Safeway and Whole Foods. In some cases, the amount of BPA on a receipt was 1,000 times the amount found in the lining of a can of food.
Some major chains, like Target and Star Bucks, use receipts with only trace amounts or no BPA at all.
Many scientists are unsure how much of a receipt's BPA can be absorbed from the skin into the body, but Swiss scientists "found that BPA transfers readily from receipts to skin and can penetrate the skin to such a depth that it cannot be washed off (Biedermann 2010). This raises the possibility that the chemical infiltrates the skin's lower layers to enter the bloodstream directly."
The possible risk to retail and service workers who handle hundreds of receipts throughout their work shift is especially a concern. It was found that retail workers have an average of "30 percent more BPA in their bodies than other adults."
Many retailers and other outlets are not using the thermal paper known to be coated in BPA. Appleton Papers Inc., a leading thermal paper maker in the U.S., no longer uses BPA in the manufacturing of its paper.
Tips to reduce exposures to BPA in receipts:
•Minimize receipt collection by declining receipts at gas pumps, ATMs and other machines when possible.
•Store receipts separately in an envelope in a wallet or purse.
•Never give a child a receipt to hold or play with.
•After handling a receipt, wash hands before preparing and eating food (a universally recommended practice even for those who have not handled receipts).
•Do not use alcohol-based hand cleaners after handling receipts. A recent study showed that these products can increase the skin's BPA absorption (Biedermann 2010).
•Take advantage of store services that email or archive paperless purchase records.
•Do not recycle receipts and other thermal paper. BPA residues from receipts will contaminate recycled paper.
•If you are unsure, check whether paper is thermally treated by rubbing it with a coin. Thermal paper discolors with the friction; conventional paper does not.