Every time you handle a store receipt that was printed on thermal paper using bisphenol-a (BPA), a little bit of this estrogen-mimicking chemical rubs off onto your fingers. When you put it in your wallet, it rubs off onto other receipts and onto your money. Some scientists theorize that exposure from powdery residue off store receipts may be a more important pathway of exposure than the much more high-profile presence of BPA in plastic drinking bottles.
In fact, a recent study by Washington Toxics Coalition and Safer Chemicals Healthy Families found traces of BPA on 21 of the 22 currency bills tested. The ubiquity of the chemical means that even the most conscientious consumer can not avoid it. That’s why Science News identified revelations about BPA on store receipts and money as one of its top environmental stories of the year.
BPA is in a class of chemicals known as endocrine-disrupters, meaning that it disrupts normal hormone functions in animals. It has been linked to numerous health issues, including cancer, neurological problems, reproductive difficulties, diabetes, obesity and more. Efforts to ban BPA use in the United States have so far been thwarted, most recently when a ban on BPA use in baby bottles was stripped from the Food Safety Modernization Act passed this fall.
The coalition suggests the following steps to reduce your BPA exposure:
- Refuse a receipt when you can.
- Store your receipts separately, such as in a small envelope, in your wallet or purse.
- Wash your hands after handing receipts or money.
- Keep receipts away from young children.
The Washington Toxics Coalition and other chemical experts also recommend the following actions for limiting other sources of BPA exposure:
- Limit your intake of canned foods or choose BPA- free, such as those from Eden Foods.
- Choose glass, stainless steel and cloudy, BPA-free plastic bottles over polycarbonate drinking bottles.
- Choose powdered rather than liquid infant formula, which absorbs BPA from the can lining.
A round up of Science News and Care2 stories on BPA in 2010
- January – Health concerns about BPA leads to federal government recommendation that parents minimize their kids’ exposure to plastics containing BPA (Care2, SN Online: 1/15/10).
- February – BPA is linked to a variety of health concerns including heart disease in adults (SN: 2/13/10, p. 13).
- May – BPA is linked to increased risk of diabetes in pregnant animals and their young (SN Online: 5/19/10).
- August – BPA is found on the paper used for many store receipts (SN: 8/28/10, p. 5).
- September – Canada declares BPA to be a toxic substance (Care2).
- November – Europe bans BPA in plastic baby bottles (Care2). The only U.S. supplier of BPA-free cash register begins to tag its paper (SN Online: 11/8/10).
- December – BPA is linked to allergies in children (Care2). Traces of BPA is detected on U.S. currency (SN Online: 12/8/10)
Gift receipt photo by Flickr user billaday