Receipts May Be Hazardous to Your Health

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As policymakers in Washington, D.C. consider proposals to limit the use of BPA (bisphenol-A) in some consumer products, new concerns about the chemical have come to light.
Last spring, when the Environmental Working Group (EWG) collected 36 samples of cash register receipts from large retailers, grocery stores, fast food restaurants and others, they discovered that 40 percent of the receipts has high levels of BPA.

BPA (bisphenol-A) is an estrogen-mimicking chemical already commonly found in plastic beverage bottles and canned foods, but now there is concern that retail workers could be at higher risk when it comes to exposure to the chemical.

Testing by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that retail workers have higher levels of BPA in their urine than non-retail workers. Recently, a new, federally funded, multi-year study confirmed these concerns about BPA in receipts. More than 380 pregnant women from the Cincinnati area had their urine tested for BPA at three points during pregnancies and at birth, and the results are troubling. Women in the study who worked at a register had an average of 55 percent more BPA in their urine than those employed as teachers. Many register receipts are coated with BPA, which brings out the black print without the need for ink.

Participants who ate at least one can of vegetables a day had on average 44 percent more BPA in their urine than those who consumed no canned food. Higher levels of the chemical were also detected in women who smoked, inhaled secondhand smoke or routinely came in contact with phthalates commonly found in vinyl products. BPA is often found in cigarette filters and is an ingredient in many plastic products, including some food packaging. The study found that 90 percent of the women in the study had detectable BPA.

EWG offers these tips to reduce exposures to BPA in receipts:

• Minimize receipt collection by declining receipts at gas pumps, ATMs and other machines when possible.
• Store receipts separately in an envelope in a wallet or purse.
• Never give a child a receipt to hold or play with.
• After handling a receipt, wash hands before preparing and eating food
• Do not use alcohol-based hand cleaners after handling receipts. It may increase BPA absorption.
• Take advantage of store services that email or archive paperless purchase records.
• Do not recycle receipts and other thermal paper. BPA residues from receipts will contaminate recycled paper.
• If you are unsure, check whether paper is thermally treated by rubbing it with a coin. Thermal paper discolors with the friction; conventional paper does not.
• Also, limit your consumption of canned food.
• Wear latex gloves if you handle receipts at work.
• Avoid beverages in plastic bottles whenever possible.

You can learn more about BPA dangers at EWG.org. EWG also offers more Tips To Avoid BPA Exposure.

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