Checking your cash register receipts can help you keep your money safe, but did you know that it can also expose you to bisphenol A, also known as BPA? Recent research shows that the chemical can be absorbed through your skin by handling receipts. BPA is used in many thermal receipt papers as a color developer that emerges when heated.
BPA is an endocrine-disrupting chemical that mimics estrogen in the human body. Exposure to BPA has been associated with reproductive problems, enlarged prostate, reduced sperm count, obesity, and diabetes in mice, and the proliferation of human breast cancer cells. BPA is also being studied for potential effects on childhood neurological development, and is among the Minnesota Department of Health’s list of priority chemicals.
Human exposure to BPA is widespread. It is found in the urine of the vast majority of newborns, children, adolescents, and adults. Globally, around 15 billion pounds of BPA will be produced in 2015, making it one of the highest-volume chemicals in production. Its presence in canned food linings and as an additive to bicarbonate plastics is well known. BPA is now banned from many children’s products both at the state and federal level.
Though BPA's use in thermal receipt papers is less well known, awareness is increasing. Preliminary research suggests that those who handle receipts as part of their employment have higher levels of BPA in their bodies than other people.
Why not just use a BPA-free paper?
The most common substitute for BPA in thermal papers ─ bisphenol S, or BPS ─ has shown the same sort of endocrine disrupting behavior in studies as BPA. No alternative thermal paper developer is known to be safer. An increasing number of retailers are offering receipts digitally via email or text, instead of on paper.
Assistance to businesses to reduce exposure to BPA
The MPCA's BPA/BPS in Thermal Paper project supports this paperless receipt trend, for environmental and public health reasons.
The goal is to reduce paper waste and generation of BPA (and related BPS). By helping businesses switch to paperless receipt systems or make other changes that reduce thermal paper use, the MPCA hopes to reduce human and environmental exposure to BPA and other alternative thermal developers which haven’t been shown to be clearly superior.
“When there is a solution that prevents unnecessary resource consumption and also reduces exposure to toxins, that’s the solution we want to promote,” Madalyn Cioci, the MPCA project manager, said.