Bisphenol A (BPA) is an estrogen-mimicking chemical primarily used in the production of plastics, resins and consumer goods. Although the potential impact of this chemical was first studied by scientists in the 1930s, it wasn’t until the mid-2000s when a boom of research sparked concern across the globe.
Because of the implications found in research, many countries (and more than 10 U.S. states) have gone BPA free for certain products. Following suit, the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) banned the use of the chemical in baby bottles and children’s cups in 2012 and infant formula packaging in 2013. However, an abundance of products are still made with BPA today.
A less-researched source of BPA exposure is thermal-receipt paper, however studies confirm these BPA in receipts are a pathway for exposure. For cashiers, this fact should be particularly startling. One study confirmed that cashiers who handled receipts containing BPA had higher levels of BPA than individuals who did not handle receipts containing the chemical.
Even more concerning is the fact that washing your hands after handling these receipts doesn’t mitigate its effects. It absorbs into your skin at a depth that cannot be washed away, so it’s possible the chemical can penetrate your bloodstream (more on this later).
Just how much BPA is in a thermal receipt? A group of Missouri scientists found the total mass of BPA on receipts is 250 to 1,000 times greater than the amount typically found in a food can or baby formula package.
Because BPA mimics estrogen, studies show that it can disrupt the body’s hormone (endocrine) system. This means the chemical could contribute to multiple health concerns, including the following:
Handling BPA on receipts is worse than ingesting it via canned food because it bypasses the liver, resulting in higher levels in the bloodstream. Does this mean you’re certain to suffer from health issues if you handle chemical-ridden thermal receipts? Not necessarily. The dosage needed to render effects is still up for debate, but exercising caution is recommended by experts.
Bottom line: Little-to-no exposure is best for your health.
Although BPA is not banned in all products, manufacturers have taken steps to address consumers’ concerns by replacing the chemical with bisphenol S (BPS). Unfortunately, this alternative carries its own health risks. Many paper receipt manufacturers now offer BPA free receipt paper, but they still use chemical developers for printing and the receipts are likely made with BPS instead.
As a cashier, what can you do? Go paperless. It’s the safest and smartest option to protect both you and your customers from the potential effects of BPA. By opting for digital receipts, you eliminate handling paper receipts altogether.
Did you previously know about BPA's presence in paper receipts? How does this information influence your perception of this practice? We'd love to hear from you!