PROTECT Yourself: Reduce Exposure to Bisphenol A (BPA) in Receipts

A laboratory commissioned by the Environmental Working Group found that 40 percent of heat-activated paper (or thermal paper) receipts had between 0.8 to nearly 3 percent pure BPA by weight. Thermal paper is widely used for point-of-sale receipts, prescription labels, airline tickets and lottery tickets. BPA can move from receipts onto hands and food, or it can pass through the skin directly. In fact, studies have shown that BPA transfers readily from receipts to skin and can penetrate the skin to such a depth that it cannot be washed off. Frequent exposures to relatively large amounts of BPA in receipts are a concern to every shopper, but even more to people who staff cash registers and bag groceries at tens of thousands of retailers.

Although the use of BPA-free paper for receipts would easily eliminate this particular route of exposure, many retailers still use thermal paper. Here are some tips for minimizing BPA exposure in receipts:

  • Decline receipts at gas pumps, ATMs and other machines when possible.
  • Avoid giving receipts to children, and store receipts in an envelope, wallet or purse.
  • Alcohol-based hand cleaners can increase the skin’s BPA absorption, so wash hands before eating or handling food.
  • Do not recycle receipts and other thermal paper since 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.

Read more at EWG website, Science News and Discover.

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