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BPA found on grocery, fast-food and other receipts

Suspect chemical is used to coat thermal paper for register receipts.

By Karen Datko Jul 28, 2010 2:58PM

This post comes from Mark Huffman at partner site


Bisphenol-A, or BPA, is a chemical used in plastic containers that some studies suggest is a health hazard. Now, it turns out that BPA can even be found in the receipt you get at the store, a fast-food outlet or even the post office.

Laboratory tests commissioned by the Environmental Working Group, a consumer organization, have reportedly found high levels of BPA on 40% of receipts sampled from major U.S. businesses and services, including outlets of McDonald's, CVS, KFC, Whole Foods, Wal-Mart, Safeway and the U.S. Postal Service.


Receipts from some businesses, including Target, Starbucks and Bank of America ATMs, were BPA-free or contained only trace amounts.

The total amount of BPA on some tested receipts was as much as 1,000 times greater than other, more widely discussed sources of BPA exposure, including canned foods, baby bottles and infant formula, the group said.


"These data should not be interpreted to suggest that policymakers shift their focus from BPA contamination of food, which is widespread, to receipts," EWG said in a statement. "BPA exposure from food sources is ubiquitous and should remain the first priority of U.S. policymakers. However, a significant portion of the public may also be exposed to BPA by handling receipts. Since many retailers do not use BPA-laden thermal paper, this particular route of exposure is easy to correct."

BPA is a plastic hardener and synthetic estrogen that has been linked by some researchers to a long list of serious health problems. It's used to coat thermal paper used by some major retailers, grocery stores, convenience stores, gas stations, fast-food restaurants, post offices and automatic teller machines. The chemical reacts with dye to form black print on receipts handled by millions of Americans every day.


EWG collected receipts from various locations in seven states and Washington, D.C., and had them tested by the University of Missouri Division of Biological Sciences laboratory, which has the capability to detect environmentally relevant amounts of BPA.


It rubs off

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, the group said.


Scientists have not determined how much of a receipt's BPA coating can transfer to the skin and from there into the body.

A study published July 11 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. This raises the possibility that the chemical infiltrates the skin's lower layers to enter the bloodstream directly, EWG said.


Last fall the National Institutes of Health said it would launch a new study to examine the safety of BPA. In March, the Environmental Protection Agency said it may add BPA to the agency's list of chemicals of concern and require testing of its impact on the environment.



Earlier this year, the Food and Drug Administration said it had "some concerns" about the impacts BPA has on the health of fetuses, infants, and young children.


Animal studies have shown the chemical can cause reproductive and developmental problems and may also affect the endocrine system, the EPA said. Other studies have linked BPA exposure in humans with cardiovascular disease, diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and reproductive issues.


Some scientists have also told that children and developing fetuses are especially vulnerable to potential adverse health effects from BPA exposure.


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