I always wondered why cash register receipt paper felt different, and now I know why.

Cash registers use “thermal paper” coated with a dye and often BPA, a plastics hardener and synthetic estrogen, which can cause reproductive and behavioral issues among other problems, and now banned in food and beverage containers, (especially baby bottles).  When a cash register imprints on the paper, its heat brings out the black lettering, avoiding the need for ink in the printer.

Researchers at Environmental Working Group tested cash register receipts from fast food restaurants, big retailers, grocery stores, gas stations and post offices in seven states and the District of Columbia.  They found that 40 percent had high levels of BPA. The tests showed that the BPA could easily rub off onto the hands of anyone who touches them, which is worrisome for shoppers but especially dangerous for the workers who handle hundreds on a daily basis.

Some retailers’ receipts showed no or very little trace of BPA including Target, Starbucks and Bank of America ATMs.  Fortunately the leading maker of thermal papers, Appleton Papers, Inc. no longer uses BPA in its products and the EPA is evaluating the safety of BPA and looking for alternatives.

In the meantime, minimize your exposure to BPA.

  • Always wash your hands after handling a receipt.
  • Don’t recycle them; BPA can contaminate other paper.
  • If you save your receipts, put them in a separate envelope.
  • Ask for an electronic receipt when available.
  • Don’t let children handle receipts.

Toxic chemicals are in nearly everything we encounter in our daily life, and as people become aware of and more vocal about their dangers, hopefully safer alternatives will be found.

Information compiled from Environmental Working Group

Image by jf02225


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