BPA Found on Store Receipts

Late last year we wrote that the <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/practice_areas/toxic_substances">BPA (bisphenol-A), which has been found in many consumer products, was found to be present in common paper receipts. Now, laboratory tests commissioned by Environmental Working Group (EWG) have found high levels of the endocrine-disrupting chemical bisphenol A (BPA) on 40 percent of receipts sampled from major U.S. businesses and services.

Firms included McDonald’s, Chevron, CVS, KFC, Whole Foods, WalMart, Safeway, the U.S. Postal Service, and the U.S. House of Representatives cafeteria. Receipts from Target, Starbucks, Bank of America ATMs and other important enterprises were BPA-free or contained only trace amounts.

The total amounts of BPA on receipts tested were 250 to 1,000 times greater than other, more widely discussed sources of BPA exposure, including canned foods, baby bottles, and infant formula, said EWG. BPA exposure from food sources is ubiquitous and should remain the first priority of U.S. policymakers, noted EWG; however, it’s important to note that a significant consumer demographic may be exposed to BPA by handling receipts.

A commonly used plastic hardener and polycarbonate plastic byproduct, BPA has been found in baby bottles, sippy cups, water bottles, aluminum can linings, eyeglasses, cars, DVD and CD cases, and some dental sealants. BPA can also be found in water as a result of aquatic paints and in appliances and windshields. On recyclable bottles, BPA, as a component, can be verified if the item contains recycling number 7.

BPA is known to imitate the hormone estrogen, acts as an anti-androgen, and is also known to affect sexual development and processes, especially in developing fetuses, infants, and children. Hundreds of studies have linked BPA to cardiovascular disease, intestinal problems, brain cell connection interference, increased risks of reproductive and immune system diseases and disorders, problems with liver function testing, interruptions in chemotherapy treatment, premature puberty, polycystic ovarian syndrome, and erectile dysfunction and male sexual problems. In urine tests, BPA is found in the overwhelming majority of Americans, more than 93 percent and, significantly, the chemical is found in 90 percent of all newborns.

According to EWG, since many retailers do not use BPA-laden thermal paper, this particular route of exposure is easy to correct. But, with BPA turning up in carbonless copy and thermal imaging papers, its common usage has grown exponentially.

BPA is used to coat thermal paper used by major retailers, grocery stores, convenience stores, gas stations, fast-food restaurants, post offices, and automatic teller machines (ATMs). The chemical reacts with dye to form black print on receipts handled by millions of Americans daily. EWG collected receipts from various locations in seven states and the District of Columbia and had them tested by the University of Missouri Division of Biological Sciences laboratory, one of the world’s foremost research facilities in its capability to detect environmentally relevant amounts of BPA. Wipe tests conducted by the lab easily removed BPA, indicating that the chemical could rub off on the hands of a person handling the receipt.

Scientists have not determined how much of a receipt’s BPA coating can transfer to the skin and into the body; however, a study published July 11 by scientists with the Official Food Control Authority of the Canton of Zürich in Switzerland found that BPA transfers readily from receipts to skin and can penetrate the skin to such a depth that it cannot be washed off, raising the possibility that the chemical infiltrates the skin’s lower layers to enter the bloodstream directly.

EWG president Ken Cook has written to several of the companies whose receipts tested positive for BPA, calling on them to change to BPA-free receipt paper in the interest of the health of their employees and customers.

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