Watch out for BPA in those receipts you’re getting

Those innocent white receipts are really hazardous to your health


Almost every time you purchase something, the cashier hands you a little white receipt. I generally keep them to help when I do my taxes and, if you’re like me, there’s a small stack of them waiting for my attention. 

But maybe hanging onto them isn’t such a good idea, regardless of what the IRS says (okay, have tread carefully here). There have been a number of stories lately – in print, online and on the airwaves – about the growing concern of the effects of BPA (bisphenol-a), an estrogen-mimicking chemical linked to all kinds of medical issues

Two recent studies – one conducted by green chemistry pioneer John Warner and the other by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) – found that a large percentage of them are coated in BPA, some in quite high levels. 

High levels of BPA have been found in a large percentage of consumer receipts


The first study found BPA in 8 out of 10 thermal paper receipts collected in the Boston area. The second study identified BPA in 40% of 36 receipts collected from fast food outlets, chain and grocery stores, gas stations, and post offices from seven states and the District of Columbia. Each found that BPA was used as a developer, which when combined with heat and an initially invisible dye created the black printing. 

There’s currently a big push to get the EPA to ban the use of BPA in all kinds of consumer products due to growing scientific evidence that exposure to this chemical can disrupt the endocrine system and set off a wide variety of medical disorders. 

The prevalence of BPA in so many consumer goods has resulted in its being found in human blood, adding to the concern. 

Handle receipts with care is always sound advice


So what’s a savvy consumer to do?  Here’s some sound advice from the EWG that you might want to follow: 

  • Refuse receipts you can live without.
  • Isolate thermal receipts in a small envelope kept in your purse or wallet. (You can check to see if a receipt is thermal by rubbing it with a coin. The resulting friction will discolor thermal paper.)
  • Keep all receipts away from kids.
  • Wash your hands after handling a thermal receipt, especially before preparing food and/or eating.
  • Keep thermal papers out of the recycling bin in order to prevent BPA contamination.

I have to admit I never thought of that last one but, on reflection, it’s just commonsense. 

So the next time you have to handle those seemingly innocent white receipts, handle with care. And to help reduce or eliminate the problem, consider contacting your Congressman or -woman and encourage them to support a ban on this seriously hazardous chemical. Speaking up makes a difference.


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