BPA, or bisphenol A, is an old compound that has become quite controversial in the past decade or two because it acts as an endocrine disruptor. It has been removed from baby bottles, but it is still an important component in the lining of cans that contain foods or beverages. Eating canned soup can boost body levels of BPA.
BPA has been linked to a number of health concerns, ranging from obesity and diabetes to heart disease and breast cancer. Many people have swapped their plastic water bottles for metal ones, or have adopted new plastic ones that are BPA-free. (Whether the new types of plastic are truly safer is still up for debate.)
Few people recognize that cash register receipts are another very common source of BPA exposure. While the customer can decline to take a receipt, cashiers are exposed as part of their jobs. New research shows that this significantly raises the level of the compound that can be measured in their urine.
BPA in Cash Register Receipts:
Q. In France, most receipts have printed on their backs “Papier garanti sans bisphénol et sans phénol.” Apparently these two substances are toxic and make it dangerous to touch the ink on receipts.
Do receipts printed in the US still contain these chemicals, and if so, is anything being done to protect workers and customers from it?
A. Many cash registers in the U.S. rely upon heat sensitive paper to print receipts. It is the paper, not the ink, that contains bisphenol A (BPA).
This chemical and similar compounds have been linked to a wide range of health problems because they mimic the hormone estrogen. A study in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives (Aug. 25, 2015) determined whether handling cash register receipts might impact levels of bisphenol in cashiers. The investigators found that amounts were higher after a shift than before and that thermal receipt paper represents a source of exposure to bisphenol compounds.
Whether such receipts pose a risks to consumers remains controversial. Bisphenol is also found in the lining of many aluminum cans, food packaging containers and plastic medical equipment. So far the FDA has been cautious about banning this substance.