Get Educated

There’s BPA in that Receipt Paper

Suzanne Price

How many of you have been in this situation? You are trying to check out at a store while your baby or toddler is having a fit about something and to keep them quiet you give them the only thing you have on hand for them to play with, the store receipt. Many of us have done this, including myself. We witness it at Sprout every day. People figure, what can be the harm in handing my child a piece of paper they can crinkle?


The harm is this: Much of the receipt paper used by typical retail stores is laden with BPA. The chemical that most of you avoid in your baby bottles and sippy cups, and that is banned by a number of states and the country of Canada, is used to allow thermal printing on receipts. Your babies play with the paper, the chemical rubs off on their hands, and then they all put their hands in their mouths. Please see excerpts below from an article written by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) on this issue. See full article here.


We are pleased to announce that receipt paper at all three Sprout San Francisco locations is free of BPA. Please ask about that the next time you are about to hand your child a receipt to play with.


From EWG:


The plastic component bisphenol A (BPA) has been in the headlines nonstop as scientists, health experts and consumers press for a federal ban on food packaging made with this synthetic estrogen, shown to leach readily into infant formula, beverages and canned food. But most Americans are probably unaware that they are regularly exposed to the same endocrine-disrupting chemical in cash register receipts.


Two-fifths of the paper receipts tested by a major laboratory commissioned by Environmental Working Group were on heat-activated paper that was between 0.8 to nearly 3 percent pure BPA by weight. Wipe tests conducted with a damp laboratory paper easily picked up a portion of the receipts' BPA coating, indicating that the chemical would likely stick to the skin of anyone who handled them. The receipts came from major retailers, grocery stores, convenience stores, gas stations, fast-food restaurants, post offices and automatic teller machines (ATMs).


Major retailers using BPA-containing receipts in at least some outlets included McDonald's, CVS, KFC, Whole Foods, Walmart, Safeway and the U.S. Postal Service. Receipts from some major chains, including Target, Starbucks and Bank of America ATMs, issued receipts that were BPA-free or contained only trace amounts.


Scientists have not determined how much of a receipt's BPA coating can transfer to the skin and from there into the body. Possibilities being explored include:
• Oral exposure -- BPA moves from receipts onto fingers and then onto food and into the mouth.
• Dermal exposure -- BPA from receipts is directly absorbed through the skin into the body.


A study published July 11 by Swiss scientists found that BPA transfers readily from receipts to skin and can penetrate the skin to such a depth that it cannot be washed off. Read about it here.


Biomonitoring surveys by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have found BPA in the bodies of 93 percent of Americans over age 6. EWG analysis of CDC data has found that people who reported working in retail industries had 30 percent more BPA in their bodies than the average U.S. adult, and 34 percent more BPA than other workers. (CDC 2004). As of May 2009, 1 in 17 working Americans -- 7 million people -- were employed as retail salespersons and cashiers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.


Thermal paper is widely used for point-of-sale receipts, prescription labels, airline tickets and lottery tickets. Thermal printers use paper that is coated with a dye and developer (BPA or an alternative chemical). Heat from the thermal printing head triggers a reaction between the dye and developer, allowing the black print to appear.

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