Article highlights how BPA-free receipts are good for health and business.

Posted by Emily Barrett at Mar 24, 2010 02:00 PM |

A large body of research has linked bisphenol A (BPA) to myriad health effects, prompting calls for its removal from consumer products ranging from baby bottles to canned foods.  Only recently has attention shifted to what may prove to be one of the largest sources of exposure: carbonless copy sales receipts commonly used for credit card purchases. 

Pete Bach’s March 18th article in the Appleton Post-Crescent covers this little known topic. He notes the increasing public concern over potentially toxic receipts and shows how one local paper company, Appleton, has led the way in providing environmentally friendly paper and office supplies.

Much (but not all) of the carbonless copy paper and thermal imaging paper now produced worldwide for cash register receipts is coated with a layer of BPA that produces color changes when heat or pressure are applied.  As Bach reports, recognizing the potentially harmful health effects of the BPA, Appleton and partner company, Heartland, stopped using the chemical in thermal receipt paper in 2006.

This change was precipitated, in part, by growing consumer concern about BPA in sales receipts, even though the scientific evidence remains limited.  Virtually nothing is known, at this point, about how casual handling of sales receipts may affect BPA levels in the body, although one unpublished study found BPA present on the skin immediately after subjects handled receipts, particularly if their skin was wet or oily at the time.

It has yet to be determined how much BPA actually enters circulation after contact with skin and how much of a health risk it may pose.  Nevertheless, the initial findings are enough to alarm some experts. 

Correction, 3/25/10 - Nearly 1 percent by weight of the chemical make-up of some sales receipts may be BPA, concentrations approximately 1000 almost 10 million times higher than those found polycarbonate bottles in liquids contained in the polycarbonate bottles that have raised so much public concern. Compounding the problem, BPA in sales receipts tends to be “free”, meaning that the potentially toxic molecules can be easily transferred onto other surfaces, such as skin.  This combination of factors leads some experts to hypothesize that sales receipts may represent the single largest source of exposure to BPA in humans. (Added: 3/25/10: Research is currently underway to determine how much is absorbed through standard use and handling of these receipts.)

Bach’s article draws attention to the fact that there are viable alternatives to cash register receipts containing BPA. Office supply firms can potentially improve their business by offering “green” products that are increasingly attractive to consumers.