“Would you like a receipt?” A new report published yesterday by the non-profit groups Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families and the Washington Toxics Coalition may make you think twice before saying yes to the cashier.
In “On the Money: BPA on Dollar Bills and Receipts,” researchers report that half of the 22 thermal paper receipts tested (from 10 states and Washington, D.C.) were contaminated with “large quantities” of unbound Bisphenol A (BPA), a toxic chemical linked to cancer, obesity, and diabetes, among other health problems. Meanwhile, 95 percent of the paper currency tested (21 of 22 bills) was contaminated with lower amounts of BPA.
“Our findings demonstrate that BPA cannot be avoided, even by the most conscious consumer,” said Erika Schreder, Staff Scientist at the Washington Toxics Coalition and lead author of the report.
BPA is a powdery film on the surface of receipts, which easily transfers to skin (and likely to other items it rubs against), where is can be absorbed into the body, according to the study.
“BPA on receipts, dollars bills, and in many other products, is a direct result of the absurdly lax controls on chemicals in the United States,” says Andy Igrejas, Director of the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families coalition. “The 112th Congress should make reform of the failed 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act a top legislative priority to protect American families for generations to come.”
Retailers with BPA-containing receipts included: Safeway, Kroger, Giant Eagle, Cub Foods, Meijer, H-E-B, Randalls, Fred Meyer, and Shaw’s. BPA-free receipts were found at Trader Joe’s, Hannaford, Home Depot, Albertson’s, Ace Hardware, Wal-Mart, Sears and Costco.
According to the Washington Toxics Coalition, you can reduce exposure to BPA from receipts by: refusing receipts; storing receipts in a dedicated envelope; washing your hands after handling receipts (or money); keeping receipts away from young children. Bobbi Chase Wilding, organizing director for the environmental group Clean New York, also urges consumers to avoid rubbing or crumpling receipts, which was found to transfer approximately 15 times more BPA onto skin compared to holding a tainted receipt.
BPA is used in numerous consumer products, including some lottery tickets. The issue of BPA in thermal paper began drawing scrutiny late in 2009. Canada banned all consumer uses of the chemical this year.