How to Avoid BPA in Receipts

hands Dec 09, 2022

If you've been interested in avoiding toxic chemicals, then you're probably already aware of BPA in plastics or BPA in canned foods. However, you may not be aware that BPA is also found in too many thermal paper receipts. This is important to know because absorbing BPA in receipts can lead to meaningful exposures over your lifetime.

This article will explain what you should know about BPA in receipts, what BPA means, why BPA is harmful, and eight tips to avoid BPA (and other endocrine disruptors) in receipts.

What BPA means

BPA, or bisphenol A, is part of a family of bisphenol chemicals. Another popular bisphenol is BPS, or bisphenol S, which became a popular substitute for BPA in BPA-free products as BPA became more notorious for its health risks. There are many more bisphenols though. In fact, "The Swedish Chemicals Agency has identified over 200 other bisphenols with a chemical structure similar to BPA that can occur on the European market," according to HBM4EU, which is a joint effort of 30 countries, the European Environment Agency and the European Commission.

Where BPA is found

Used to manufacture polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins for decades, BPA is often in end products like some types of food and beverage containers, plastic dinnerware, toys, the protective linings of food cans, dental sealants, and more. 

BPA serves a purpose. For example, BPA helps plastics be sturdier and as part of the protective lining of canned foods, BPA helps to increase the food's shelf-life and protects food from a metallic taste.

Less well-known is that BPA is also found in the coatings of thermal paper, including paper receipts.  Examples of where you may find BPA in receipts include:

  • Airline receipts
  • Concert tickets
  • Grocery receipts
  • Train receipts

BPA in receipts

So, what's the big deal with BPA in receipts?

First, BPA has been detected in greater concentrations in some thermal paper than in canned foods. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency reported, "Studies have found that individual thermal receipts can contain BPA that is 250 to 1,000 times greater than the amount in a can of food."

Second, data suggests that BPA absorbed into the body behaves differently than if ingested. One set of researchers concluded in a 2017 article in Environmental Science & Technology that BPA absorbed through the skin takes longer to excrete.

Third, BPA in your body can be greater through dermal absorption from BPA in receipts than through ingesting BPA from contaminated food and drinks. Furthermore, certain common behaviors can increase our body's absorption of BPA in receipts. Learn more about this in the tips section below.

Why BPA is harmful

It's hard to get a simple response to why BPA is harmful. For example, the US FDA has long held that BPA has been safe at levels found in our consumer products. Fortunately, in June 2022, the FDA agreed to reassess BPA in food packaging.

However, many other domestic (like Minnesota) and foreign (like Canada) governments were concerned about the data and they took precautionary measures by regulating BPA from certain products. Some major retailers (like Toys 'R' Us) even started banning BPA from certain children's products as a response to emerging health concerns. In July 2022, however, the FDA said that it would reassess the health risks of BPA in certain products.

Meanwhile, authorities (including the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) have categorized BPA as an endocrine disruptor. In 2017, ECHA, an agency of the European Union, classified BPA as an endocrine disruptor "... due to its “probable serious effects to human health which give rise to an equivalent level of concern to carcinogenic, mutagenic, toxic to reproduction substances.”

Many bisphenols may damage fertility and disrupt the hormonal systems of both people and animals. They may also cause skin allergies.

European Chemicals Agency

8 Tips To Avoid BPA In Receipts

Fortunately, there are simple ways to significantly reduce your exposure to BPA in receipts.

  1. Avoid thermal paper receipts. Instead, accept digital receipts.
  2. Avoid handling thermal paper receipts after using hand sanitizers, lotions, or other products that may have skin-penetrating ingredients. A study found that using hand sanitizers, certain lotions, and other products that have skin-penetrating ingredients can increase BPA absorption by up to 100 times.
  3. Use gloves when handling thermal paper receipts. This is a great way to avoid absorbing BPA.
  4. Avoid touching the printed side of the thermal paper receipt. Some receipts have been found to not have BPA on the unprinted, or underside, of the receipt. However, please do not have a false sense of security since it's hard to know in which instances this is true.
  5. Store thermal paper receipts in an envelope. This will contain BPA in the envelope rather than allowing BPA to contaminate your pursue, wallet, or pockets.
  6. Wash hands as soon as possible after handling paper receipts. Remove BPA—and other toxins—from your hands as soon as possible by washing your hands.
  7. Pregnant and children should be extra conservative about touching thermal paper. The youngest of life is the most vulnerable to the effects of endocrine disruptors and other toxicants so pregnant women and childcare providers should be extra conservative about protecting young life from toxic exposures.
  8. Don't have a false sense of security. Even if a retailer has banned BPA in their thermal receipts, substitute chemicals may not be safer so the tips above are still relevant.

In Summary

Thermal paper receipts can expose you to BPA or a BPA substitute. While BPA is often categorized as an endocrine disruptor, its substitute chemical may pose health risks too. so it's worthwhile to follow the eight tips above to reduce your exposure to toxic chemicals in receipts. Over your lifetime, this can add up to meaningful reductions of BPA in your body.

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