Common receipt paper contains BPA, study says

Opting not to take a receipt from the cashier may be more than just an environmentally conscious act— as it turns out it may be good for your health, too.

According to a study published in the Oct. 22 issue of PLOS ONE, thermal paper— a common type of receipt paper— contains bisphenol A (BPA).

BPA is an endocrine disruptor, which interferes with the body’s hormones. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration considers BPA safe because packaging containing BPA exposes people to only low levels. However, previous studies have linked BPA exposure to an increased risk of asthma, heart disease, and reproductive disorders, among other effects.

BPA can be found in plastic and the coating of food and drink cans. Manufacturers that produce BPA-free packaging often mark their products to reflect that.

In the research, scientists at the University of Missouri studied men and women who handled thermal receipt paper after using hand sanitizer, and found that  large amount of BPA was transferred to their hands, according to a news release. The transmission caused the BPA in their blood levels to spike.

"The BPA blood levels caused by touching thermal paper are related to many diseases (for example obesity and diabetes) that are increasing in frequency as the use of BPA is increasing," co-author Frederick S. vom Saal said. "The use of BPA or other similar chemicals in thermal paper thus poses a threat to human health."

The outer layer of thermal receipt paper was also covered in the estrogen-mimicking chemical bisphenol S (BPS).

The American Chemistry Council (ACC), an advocacy group for business value and sustainability, said in a statement sent to that these findings downplay previous research that suggests “very little BPA exposure under conditions most representative of real-life contact with thermal receipt paper.”

“Notably, a recent study from the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health (Porras et al., 2014) found no significant exposure to BPA from handling receipt paper using real-life exposure scenarios,” the ACC wrote. “Included in the Finnish study were conditions representative of cashiers (i.e., repeated handling of receipts throughout a workday) and more intensive short-term handling considered to be beyond normal handling of paper receipts.”