If you’re like me, by the end of the week, crammed in to your purse or wallet are a bunch of the week’s receipts.
Fumbling through a mess of accumulated receipts not only makes one feel and look ridiculous- it turns out that it may increase exposure to the plastic component bisphenol A (BPA), a type of synthetic estrogen.
The source of the BPA is thermal paper used in some cash registers. This paper is coated with a dye and a second chemical, which is often BPA. To check whether a receipt is printed on thermal paper, rub it with a coin. The heat of the friction will discolor thermal paper, but not conventional paper.
Two-fifths of the paper receipts tested by a major laboratory commissioned by Environmental Working Group, a non-profit organization that advocates for a healthy environment, were found to be 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 the papers.
The receipts came from everywhere: major retailers, grocery stores, convenience stores, gas stations, fast-food restaurants, post offices and automatic teller machines (ATMs).
All of the above, most of us carry around in purses or wallets. And handle daily.
Exposure especially becomes a problem for retail clerks who must handle the receipts with every transaction. And for those who work for the companies who manufacture the papers laced with these chemicals? Even more of a concern.
More study on the effects of skin contact with BPA is needed, says the EWG. Until then, keep your purse or wallet clean and consider these tips from the EWG:
- Don’t let infants or children handle receipts.
- Avoid paper receipts entirely when electronic or email alternatives are available.
- If you save receipts, keep them in a separate envelope.
- After handling receipts, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly before preparing and eating food (and that’s a good practice even when you haven’t handled receipts).
- Don’t use alcohol-based hand cleaners after handling receipts; they can increase absorption of BPA through the skin.
- Don’t recycle receipts and other thermal paper. BPA residues will contaminate recycled paper.