There are plenty of problems with consumerism, but this one is reasonably unanticipated – because register receipts are toxic. In terms of neutral substances that I am not likely to consider harmful, paper generally ranks high on the list. The problem with thermal receipts is that it’s paper that is coated with massive amounts of BPA as a developing agent for the print. According to a University of Missouri – Columbia study, this issue is compounded by using hand sanitizer, creams or lotions before you touch a receipt. We’ll talk about that more in a second, but let’s cover the basics first. Also remember the new substitute for BPA, BPS, is TOXIC!
What is BPA?
According to Frederick vom Saal, Curators Professor of Biological Sciences in the College of Arts and Science at MU, “BPA first was developed by a biochemist and tested as an artificial estrogen supplement,” apparently, having been declined for medical use, the manufacturer found industrial uses for it. BPA (or it’s little sister BPS) is now used to make plastics soft, but the estrogenic effects are still there. BPA and BPS are most commonly found in:
- Store and restaurant receipts
- Airline tickets
- ATM receipts
- Plastic bottles and food containers
- Linings of cans for canned food
- Baby bottles
- Dental composits
Many plastic water bottles currently available are proudly labeled “BPA FREE!” but that’s misleading, because they just substituted BPA for BPS which has the same endocrine disrupting effects. And obviously, the BPA hasn’t been taken out of anything that isn’t consumable – like the toxic register receipts.
What Does BPA Do To Humans?
BPA has strong estrogen effects. It has also been shown to alter signaling mechanisms involving hormones. Excess estrogen is strongly implicated in obesity, mood disorders, hormone disorders and infertility, breast and prostate cancer. Not to mention reproductive harm to fetuses – meaning exposure to BPA in utero may lead to reproductive problems for that child when they grow up. Seriously – if they can harm your unborn child, then register receipts are TOXIC.
How Much BPA do You Get From Touching Register Receipts?
This research study tried to establish a feel for how much BPA is absorbed with normal shopping behavior. Subjects BPA levels were tested before and after handling register receipts when the subject had previously used a skin product like hand sanitizer or lotion. Their levels were also tested after handling register receipts and then eating fries. The results? BPA is absorbed very rapidly in these conditions, which mimic normal human shopping. Vom Saal, the primary researcher, went on to say:
“Our research found that large amounts of BPA can be transferred to your hands and then to the food you hold and eat as well as be absorbed through your skin. BPA exhibits hormone-like properties and has been proven to cause reproductive defects in fetuses, infants, children and adults as well as cancer, metabolic and immune problems in rodents. BPA from thermal papers will be absorbed into your blood rapidly; at those levels, many diseases such as diabetes and disorders such as obesity increase as well. Use of BPA or other similar chemicals that are being used to replace BPA in thermal paper pose a threat to human health.”
The press release from MU can be found here. I have to say, I feel a little weird that we live in a world where register receipts are toxic. These things in our environment that we come into contact with on a near-daily basis shouldn’t be implicated in things like cancer and fetal reproductive defects. The important thing is knowing as a consumer how to protect yourself because clearly we can’t rely on our government doing it for us. Make sure you handle receipts, airline tickets and ATM printouts as minimally as possible and never after you have put on hand sanitizer or lotion. Also wash your hands before eating to make sure BPA you have touched doesn’t make it into your food. After all, if something as simple as a register receipt is toxic, just think of all the other things you come into contact with.