Picture it – you stroll through the grocery store and select organic produce, non-GMO fruits and vegetables, and ingredients for healthy recipes for the whole family. After the cashier rings up your purchase, they hand you a receipt. Sounds harmless, right? You’ve heard of harmful bisphenol A (BPA) in plastics, but did you know that BPA is also found in receipt paper?
BPA is a known toxic industrial chemical that is used to make certain plastics. This chemical is primarily found in containers used to store food and beverages, but can be found in other items as well, such as medical devices, compact disks, and dental sealants. Over 90 studies have reported relationships between the BPA in people’s urine and a wide array of adverse health outcomes, including a likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, impaired liver function, and inflammation. The results of these studies were so shocking that several countries have banned the use of BPA in baby bottles entirely. Many companies have tried to reduce or exclude BPAs in their products as well, in order to further protect consumers.
Unfortunately, BPA is also used in thermal paper, the type of paper that cash register receipts are made of. When you touch thermal paper, BPA can be transferred onto your fingers, especially if your hands are damp. One study1 found that the amount of BPA in the blood stream was increased the more the receipt paper was handled by cashiers. Surprisingly, this risk is increased if you use hand sanitizers and hand creams. Since these products typically include dermal penetrating chemicals, they can allow the sanitizer or cream to sink into the skin, but also chemicals like BPA can sink in as well.
While the risk of exceeding the daily allowable limit of BPAs from cash register receipts is low, this is just one more way you can look out and avoid BPA exposure. In addition, avoid using a hand sanitizer or hand lotion immediately before you handle paper receipts. Try to recycle or place the receipt in a safe location soon after the cashier hands it to you.
1. Biedermann S, Tschudin P, Grob K. Transfer of bisphenol A from thermal printer paper to the skin.
Anal Bioanal Chem. 2010 Sep;398(1):571-6. doi: 10.1007/s00216-010-3936-9. Epub 2010 Jul 11.