Bisphenol A (BPA) made the news a few months ago after being found on receipts, but a recent report which found that 50 percent of thermal paper receipts contain BPA also found that it is very predominant in paper money as well. According to the report, “On the Money: BPA on Dollar Bills and Receipts,” released Wednesday by the Washington Toxics Coalition, BPA was found in 11 of the 22 receipts, and 21 of 22 dollar bills tested.
The chemical–commonly used to strengthen clear, hard plastics, and food can liners–has been shown of to disrupt the hormone systems of animals, and had been found to be highly prevalent in humans. Known as an endocrine disruptor (chemicals that can act like hormones), studies show that BPA can mimic the female hormone estrogen. In 2009 the scientific group, the Endocrine Society, published a 34-page report stating strong evidence of ill health effects from endocrine disruptors, including harm to the reproductive system, causing malformations, infertility and cancer.
Unlike the BPA in plastics, the BPA in paper can rub off on the skin. According to the report, BPA that makes contact with skin easily passes through it.
“We did some rough calculations on how much exposure you could expect to have from receipts if you were to crumple them, and it ended up [similar to] what Americans get from food,” said Erika Schreder, author of the report. “[Exposure from receipts] seems to be in the ballpark of what people thought was the most critical exposure route.”
The worst transference of BPA to the skin came from crumpling a receipt between two fingers and a thumb five times. This sort of crumpling deposited more than 10 times the BPA on the skin as simply holding a receipt between a finger and thumb for 10 seconds.
“On the Money” was conducted in partnership with Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, a coalition of parents, health professionals, environmentalists and businesses concerned with toxic chemicals.