BPA-Laden Receipts in Popular Stores

By Siel Ju, MNN

BPA, aka bisphenol-A is revealing itself more and more in our lives. The endocrine disruptor linked to cancer, reproductive problems, and lots of other ills, has shown up in some surprising places — including cash register receipts.

This week, EWG released a report showing not only how much BPA is on these cash receipts, but which companies are giving out the most tainted receipts.

Ready for the bad news? If you guessed that McDonald’s and KFC serve up BPA alongside their unhealthy monstrosities, you are correct:

The receipt for a McDonald’s Happy Meal purchased in Clinton, Conn., on April 21, 2010, had an estimated 13 milligrams of BPA. That equals the amount of BPA in 126 cans of Chef Boyardee Overstuffed Beef Ravioli in Hearty Tomato & Meat Sauce, one of the products with the highest concentrations of BPA in EWG’s 2007 tests of canned foods.

Receipts from CVS, Wal-Mart, Safeway, and the U.S. Postal Service also contained alarming amounts of BPA. But organic foodies at Whole Foods can’t rest easy either; at least one store in the Whole Foods chain gave out BPA-tainted receipts. That means if you decided to snack healthy, bought an organic orange at Whole Foods, took the receipt handed to you, then peeled and ate the orange on your way home, you could very well have eaten the BPA that rubbed off the receipt onto your hands and onto your pricey orange.

Next: stores with BPA-free receipts

Now, although the BPA content of these receipts are much higher than in canned foods and bottles, EWG says the risk of BPA exposure is unlikely to be proportionally higher for receipts.

“The amount of BPA that enters the body after a person handles a receipt is unknown but likely a fraction of the total BPA on the paper.” Still, EWG cites a July study with the Official Food Control Authority of the Canton of Zurich in Switzerland, which found that BPA from receipts can be absorbed into the skin. “This raises the possibility that the chemical infiltrates the skin’s lower layers to enter the bloodstream directly.” And of course, if you lick your fingers or handle food after touching receipts, you could be putting BPA into your food.

What’s a BPA-avoidant person who has already banned the can and gotten a BPA-free reusable bottle to do? EWG recommends declining receipts whenever you can, washing hands before eating, storing receipts separately, and not using alcohol-based hand cleaners after handling receipts. But the receipts pose a seriously pesky problem that infiltrates all areas of life. If you buy a magazine at a bookstore, will you remember to wash your hands before, say, licking a finger to turn a page?

There is a little good news: Target, Starbucks, Bank of America ATMs and — in case Barbara Boxer’s reading this post — the U.S. Senate cafeteria, all give BPA-free receipts. And hopefully, as this BPA receipt issue gains traction, more companies will switch to BPA-free receipts. Because while EWG points out that the “U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has initiated a program to evaluate the safety and availability of alternatives to BPA in thermal paper,” it’s unclear how long this evaluation — let alone actual enforcement of new anti-BPA laws — will take.

Related Links:
What is BPA?
Walmart Foundation funds school solar projects
IKEA to banish incandescent bulbs


Donna Hamilton
Donna Hamilton5 years ago


Sandy B.
Sandy B.7 years ago

You think you are safe from PBA's if you use non PBA plastic water bottles - Besides cash register receipts what other things poison us with PBA's that we don't know about? It seems like you can eat organic, non processed, use safe cleaning products and safe health care products and they still manage to get you. It can get discouraging! Trying to stay healthy is a constant learning curve

Thanks for the info!


johan l.
paul l7 years ago

When I first read the headline relating to the article, I thought it had something to do with Bin-laden.
After having read the article, I can only say, "wash your hands" when you get home or get to a public toilet!
It is an eye opener though!

Cynthia U.
Cynthia U7 years ago

You just never know. Everyday it is something new we find out about that is harmful to our lives. Eat healthy, drink filtered water, take supplements (natural ones like Shaklee) and do your best to avoid what you know is bad for you.

Maria S.
Maria S7 years ago

Very informative and scary. Always must be double careful.

Joyce N.
Joyce N7 years ago

Gee, I had no idea. I am a finger licker when turning the pages of magazines. With all the other chemicals out there, in everything we touch, eat, or wash with, no wonder we are so sick. WHO is trying to kill us off?

evelyn m.
evelyn m.7 years ago


heather g.
heather g7 years ago

Staff at these stores need to be aware of this and wear gloves until BPA-products are no longer used. Staff must be taking in a huge amount of BPA. How about Shoppers Drugmart, Walmart Canada, London Drugs, Nesters, RONA and Home Depot - the majority of stores seem to be American-owned? Does anyone know?

James F.
James F7 years ago

I still reckon that eating the receipt is safer than eating a Big Mac. :)

Peter B.
Peter B7 years ago

thankyou for posting