It's been found in baby bottles, water bottles, and cans, but here's a new item to avoid that contains the estrogen-mimicking chemical Bisphenol A: paper receipts. Science News reports that John C. Warner of the Warner Babcock Institute for Green Chemistry has found that both carbonless copy papers and the thermal imaging papers that form most receipts today are coated in a powdery layer of the chemical. He believes that our exposure to BPA through receipts is many times greater than through bottles or cans.
So why should you be concerned about BPA? Recent studies of the chemical have found that, when ingested, it is linked to diabetes, heart disease, liver toxicity, and birth defects. Warner told Science News that BPA found on receipts is dusted off on the fingers, where it either makes its way to food, or is absorbed through the skin.
“When people talk about polycarbonate bottles, they talk about nanogram quantities of BPA [leaching out],” Warner observes. “The average cash register receipt that's out there and uses the BPA technology will have 60 to 100 milligrams of free BPA.” By free, he explains, it’s not bound into a polymer, like the BPA in polycarbonates. It’s just the individual molecules loose and ready for uptake.
As such, he argues, when it comes to BPA in the urban environment, “the biggest exposures, in my opinion, will be these cash register receipts.” Once on the fingers, BPA can be transferred to foods. And keep in mind, he adds, some hormones—like estrogen in certain birth-control formulations—are delivered through the skin by controlled-release patches. So, he argues, estrogen mimics like BPA might similarly enter the skin.
Warner's observations about BPA have not yet been published or peer-reviewed. And not all receipt papers were found to contain BPA—but the papers that do not contain it are indistinguishable from the ones that do. Nevertheless, those concerned about exposure to BPA, such as pregnant women, should wash their hands after touching a receipt, he said.
Concerned consumers can also heed these two receipt-free, paper-saving tips:
- Say "no" to receipts when given the option. At ATMs and gas stations, so many people opt for a receipt that goes immediately in the trash. Market Watch estimates that if everyone in the U.S. did not take their ATM receipt, we'd save a roll of paper that was two billion feet long, enough to circle the equator 15 times. Online banking is the way to go here.
- Sign up for an e-receipt service, like allEtronic. When you sign up for a free account, you can receive paperless receipts from stores like Best Buy and Target, saving paper and eliminating clutter. Each time you log in to the site, your receipts are organized and accessible for returns and disputes.