Bisphenol A Risks with Store Receipts

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Risks associated with Bisphenol A (BPA) on cash register receipts.

Some of the cash register and credit card receipts can be coated with Bisphenol A (BPA), a hormone-mimicking pollutant. This substance is used on some carbonless copy papers which are used for most credit card receipts and the thermal imaging papers that are spit out by most modern cash registers.

BPA Uses

Bisphenol A (BPA) is a chemical building block that is used primarily to make polycarbonate plastic and epoxy resins. Polycarbonate plastic is a lightweight, high-performance plastic that is strong, clear, has high heat resistance, and excellent electrical resistance. Because of these attributes, polycarbonate is used in a wide variety of common products including digital media (e.g., CDs, DVDs), electrical and electronic equipment, automobiles, sports safety equipment, reusable food and drink containers, receipts and many other products.

Manufacturers coat a powdery layer of BPA onto one side of a piece of paper together with an invisible ink so when you applied pressure or heat, they would merge together to produce a visible ink. Health risks were studied back in the 1990s.

BPA is also used in the production of epoxy resins. Epoxy resins are used in electrical laminates for printed circuit boards, composites, paints and adhesives, as well as in a variety of protective coatings. Cured epoxy resins are inert materials used as protective liners in metal cans to maintain the quality of canned foods and beverages, and have achieved wide acceptance for use as protective coatings because of their exceptional combination of toughness, adhesion, formability, and chemical resistance.

Exposure and Risks

Research was demonstrating that this estrogen-mimicking chemical was leaching out of polycarbonate plastics, out of the resins used to line most food cans and out of dental sealants. In the womb, this chemical could disrupt the normal development of the reproductive organs in rats and mice or evoke changes that may make the animals develop cancer later in life.

Plastic (polycarbonate) bottles contain nanogram (one billionth of a gram) quantities of BPA that can leach out. The average cash register receipt that uses the BPA technology will have 60 to 100 milligrams of BPA that is not bound to any molecular structure and can coat other surfaces or human skin.

Once on the fingers, BPA can be transferred to foods or absorbed through the skin. Some hormones are delivered through the skin by controlled-release patches and estrogen-like compounds such as BPA might also enter the skin.

The structure of BPA is not the same as estrogen and there are other materials in the skin that might selectively degrade or alter BPA as it passes through.

The use of polycarbonate plastic for food contact applications continues to be recognized as safe by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the European Commission Scientific Committee on Food, the United Kingdom Food Standards Agency, the Japan Ministry for Health and Welfare and other regulatory authorities worldwide.

Several studies have reported that trace levels of BPA may be released from certain dental sealants, but only during a short time period immediately after its application. In addition, the highest level of BPA exposure reported from dental sealants is more than 50,000 times lower than levels shown to cause toxicity in animal studies. Based on these findings, human exposure to BPA from dental sealants is minimal and poses no known health risk.

Solutions

To reduce the potential risks from BPA regulators could mandate labeling of any and all products that contain BPA at their point of sale or at the cash register. Pregnant women would know to wash their hands after picking up a BPA-laced receipt. And we’d all know to keep such paper out of hands of kids. We might also want to store those receipts in a plastic bag, not in purses or wallets.

Sources:

Bisphenol A

http://www.bisphenol-a.org/

Environmental Working Group

http://www.ewg.org/bpa-in-store-receipts

 

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Susan Kaul
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Daniel Snyder
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Daniel Snyder