July 29th, 2010
01:28 PM ET

BPA found on store receipts, group says

Bisphenol A is back in the headlines this week after a new report found high levels of the endocrine disruptor on 40 percent of receipts from businesses.

Lab results from a study commissioned by the Environmental Working Group found thermal paper used by a number of major U.S. companies including McDonald's, CVS Pharmacy, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Walmart, Safeway, Whole Foods and the U.S. Postal Service had register receipts with 250 to 1,000 times more BPA than products already known to contain the chemical, including  baby bottles and canned foods.

"A typical employee at any large retailer who runs the register could handle hundreds of the contaminated receipts in a single day at work," said Jane Houlihan, EWG senior vice president for research. "While we do not know exactly what this means for people's health, it's just one more path of exposure to this chemical that seems to bombard every single person."

Samples were taken from locations in seven states and the District of Columbia. The receipts came from a number of outlets including grocery stores, gas stations, fast-food restaurants, automatic teller machines  and major retailers.

EWG says scientists don't know how much BPA can transfer to the skin but a Swiss study published earlier this month found the chemical transfers easily from receipts to skin and penetrates to a depth that can't easily be washed off.

But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that human health effects from BPA at low environmental exposures are unknown and that more studies are needed to understand health effects from exposure. They also analyzed data from their National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey program. That survey looks at a national sample of about 5,000 people each year to assess health and nutrition and determine prevalence and risk factors for diseases.

"There is a percentage of BPA in the average American but in terms of register receipts we have not done any type of analysis related to specifics focusing on register receipts," said Bernadette Burden, a Center for Disease Control and Prevention spokesperson. "The CDC's national biomonitoring program utilizes data as well as blood and urine samples from NHANES to understand better what chemicals are in the blood and urine of the average American and BPA is among the chemical makeup of the average person."

Receipts from some retailers were BPA-free or only contained trace amounts. They included Starbucks, Target and Bank of America ATMs. Thermal paper is used for receipts, prescription labels, airline tickets, even lottery tickets. But 60 percent of the receipts EWG sent to the lab did not have significant levels of BPA, suggesting, they say, that companies are already starting to use alternative products.

Appleton Papers, which claims to be the largest thermal paper manufacturer in the country, no longer uses BPA in its product. Kent Willetts, Appleton's vice president of strategic development, says the company stopped using the chemical in 2006 because of safety concerns. "After reviewing toxicology reports and available studies we concluded removing BPA from our thermal products was the responsible thing to do."

soundoff (36 Responses)
  1. Niki

    Is anybody interested in the fact that no one with any scientific credibility actually thinks BPA is a problem? Or that the studies claiming to show it's harmful involved injecting the chemical directly into the bloodstream? Just don't go injecting yourself with baby bottles or receipt bits and you should be okay.

    July 29, 2010 at 17:42 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Frank

      Why are you saying that's a fact the no-one with scientific credibility thinks it's a problem? Don't be so simplistic and sarcastic. There a number of studies, both government and private, that demonstrate it's corrilation and potential affects on fetal development. It is not required to make the products it's used for, so why use it?

      July 30, 2010 at 12:36 | Report abuse |
  2. N. Peterson

    I respectfully disagree. Sure you're not injecting yourself with BPA, but would you go rub toxic chemicals on your skin on purpose? Would you apply mercury to your skin? It's been proven that mercury is easily absorbed through your skin and goes directly into your bloodstream. Why not crack open some thermometers and play around with the chemicals? Even touching toxins allows for them to be absorbed through your skin. For instance, look at essential oils. They're beneficial because your body absorbs them through your skin. The same goes with toxins.

    July 29, 2010 at 18:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. KC

    Aaaah, yes. Alarmist news at its finest. We don't know how the chemical affects human health or if the amount from cash register receipts is harmful, but she sure as heck better let people get all nervous and jerky about it. This nonsense makes me yawn. Get back to me with some science.

    July 29, 2010 at 18:44 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Keeto

      Spoken like a true republicain.. Am I right?

      August 2, 2010 at 07:52 | Report abuse |
  4. KC

    For the record, N. Peterson, we all DID this when I was a kid. I remember playing with mercury in my hands as a child. We are exposed to chemicals every day. If you're so concerned, I hope you're not storing your food in plastic or using any materials treated with chemicals. Are you touching computer keys? Oh, no!

    July 29, 2010 at 18:46 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Keeto

      Yes we did and we also ingonor the fact that Cancer of all types are aat it highest ever.. " Look at me I played with all sorts of "bad" chemicals and I'm ok, so it must all be bollix"

      August 2, 2010 at 07:54 | Report abuse |
  5. Andy

    Use vinyl gloves till the situation is resolved. Recycled paper with soy ink works better than this crap. Transit agencies use soy ink on recycled paper for schedules.

    – A

    July 29, 2010 at 21:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. t

    Great I'm wiping my but with recycled BPA , thank you to the Environmental Working Group on a job well done wonder why our government allowed BPA to be used in anything? Oh, that's right, their too busy making sure people who make BPA have job security.

    July 29, 2010 at 22:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Turtle 42

    No one gets out of life alive. You're going to die. If you want to do good in this life, worry about the mass killers – overweight and smoking, before getting concerned about trace amounts of chemicals that no one is sure even have an impact.

    Glad the EWG found some other alarming thing to get their name in the news.

    July 29, 2010 at 22:18 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Linda

      It's easy to say we will all die so why worry, but having had my first born son, after handling thousands of receipts and ATM rolls, I have to wonder if these toxins contributed to his Neuroblastoma. If you had watched a child destroyed by an aggressive cancer of the nervous system, I am sure you would pay more attention to stories like these. It's not necessarily your health at risk... it's the heath of your future children. I would welcome more research into this to find out exactly what health implications these things have. Exposure to chemicals used in pesticides have also been linked to Neuroblastoma – particially coackroache infestations in listed buildings, the bank I worked in was a listed building, I worked in the vaults with all the records... many printed reciepts, till rolls, ATM rolls etc. I can't change the fact that I worked there for so long and I can't bring my Angel back, but there's always that part of me that wants to know why it happened to him.

      August 2, 2010 at 04:26 | Report abuse |
  8. Emma

    I am a person who always listens to these types of reports. I prefer to know about anything that is "potentially" toxic so that I can avoid it. I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism at the age of 30. I suffered for years with strange symptoms before finally being diagnosed. Hypothyroidism is an epidemic amongst women in this country and I want to know why. Why is autism on the rise too and why do so many women get breast cancer? If we don't discuss these toxins and the possible effects they have on human health we may never answer some of these serious health questions. If this kind of report doesn't concern you or you think it's boring, then please don't read it.

    July 29, 2010 at 22:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. nomoregobldgk

    That a giant in their industry ,Appleton Paper, discontinues using BPA in their products since 2006 speaks loud and clear that this does pose a risk to public health and that's all the expertise that is called for. To say more testing is necessary is just like saying, "let's see how many more service job employees will display anomolous symptoms and behavior from the chronic toxic exposure before we can tell each and every one of them that it is all in their heads." Just because their employers wanted to save a couple of bucks and procured the cheaper tainted stuff from sources not as consciensious as Appleton. (I am not an employee of Appleton)

    July 29, 2010 at 23:53 | Report abuse | Reply
    • KDW

      Did it cross your mind that Appleton stopped using BPA because they saw that people were getting worked up about it. There was a huge backlash against plastic products that had BPA in them. So much so many companies quit using it on their own to keep customers. I have a feeling Appleton's decision had more to do with the bottom line than with safety. Personally I think the research on BPA is still a little tentative, but I've cut back on my plastic usage just in case.

      July 30, 2010 at 00:02 | Report abuse |
  10. joeblackbird

    How much do you want to bet that the paper with the highest levels of BPA is made in China.

    July 30, 2010 at 00:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. nomoregobldgk

    BPA is know to be estrogenic since 1930, it absorbes readily through the skin and Estrogen is an endocrine-disrupting compound (EDC) which means it has high estrogenic potency. When EDCs make their way into the environment they cause severe male reproductive dysfunction to both humans and wildlife. While both men and women have different levels of this steroid in their bodies naturally, upsetting the natural set point in either case can and does reek systemic havoc. I like my estrogen levels to stay just as nature intended and would not like to be vying with the men in my life for lacey underwear.

    July 30, 2010 at 00:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. nomoregobldgk

    and sadly this is a disaster in the making, not only since China has sacrificed it's environmental conscience to gain its footing in the global economy, but because it has a vast population concentrated heavily around its industrialized centers. choosing to continue to ignore the impact of environmental toxins and industrial chemicals is a slippery slope that can only spell tragedy if China does not hurry up and check itself.

    July 30, 2010 at 01:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. aw

    Did some of the skeptics even read the article?

    Appleton Papers, which claims to be the largest thermal paper manufacturer in the country, no longer uses BPA in its product. Kent Willetts, Appleton's vice president of strategic development, says the company stopped using the chemical in 2006 because of safety concerns. "After reviewing toxicology reports and available studies we concluded removing BPA from our thermal products was the responsible thing to do."

    This defense of exposures to chemical compounds and hazards known/unknown is inexplicable in any case. A complete lack of caution concerning one's own health and a cavalier attitude about others, and about the responsibility we have not to do harm to each other via our actions, commercial or otherwise. Bizarre, and reckless.

    July 30, 2010 at 01:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. nomoregobldgk

    trace amounts of highly toxic chemicals is worse than any other illness known to man. sure, we die, but there is ABSOLUTELY no reason for the protracted, excrutiating torture that is brought on by toxic exposures because the human body assimilates them into its biochemistry and they cause severe systemic problems; everything from rashes, to allergies and once they cross the blood brain barrier you just can't die fast enough.

    July 30, 2010 at 01:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Richard

    When it comes to toxins, better to err on the safe side. At one time in our recent history most people thought DDT was okay to use everywhere. All these toxins add up and end up in our water, air, soil and food. There has to be a better way. Those who try to convince us that there is nothing to worry about are like the proverbial ostrich.

    July 30, 2010 at 07:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Billshut

    "While we do not know exactly what this means for people's health"

    Well, that pretty much sums it up! Conduct some research, find some real facts, THEN come to us with a story! Otherwise, it's senseless conjecture, and sensationalism.

    July 30, 2010 at 08:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Tinkets

    We wouldn't have to waste our time and money figuring this BPA out if we used more natural products in the first place. I hope the next time we have to hear about this, that there is actually some proof, somewhere and not speculation. Yet, another thing to waste money on at this point.

    July 30, 2010 at 10:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. PiercedPsycho

    In all the information I've read about BPA, it seems that it's only a risk to infant males under a year old, which is when it slightly alters their reproductive system since BPA is a synthetic estrogen. Female babies, so far, have no problem with it. Just don't use products with BPA on infant boys. Simple.

    July 31, 2010 at 13:17 | Report abuse | Reply
    • BPA blows

      Women are just as sensitive to estrogenic compounds as males are, and it does not only affect infants. Why do you think the age of puberty in girls is so low compared to even 50 years ago? Why do you think more and more women suffer from polycystic ovaries, cystic breasts, and breast cancers (some of which use estrogen and estrogen-like substances to grow)? Why do you think so many American adults have more trouble conceiving children these days?

      Of course there are no definitive studies on the detriment caused by average exposures to this chemical, because we don't know fully yet where it is found (case in point – the above article), who is exposed, and to what degree. We can't very well *give* BPA to people to see if it causes harm and at what exposure levels. The closest thing we have to proof of human toxicity right now is the Chinese male reproductive study (came out almost a year ago), which showed significantly (4 to 7 times greater) reduced reproductive function in males who worked at factories which used greater amounts of BPA for manufacturing. Here is a summary of the study: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/11/091111083051.htm

      Hormones also do not necessarily have a one-to-one correlation between amount of exposure and effects on the body; even the tiniest amounts can cause serious changes. This is why we should all be concerned.

      August 2, 2010 at 12:59 | Report abuse |
  19. Jennifer Graham,Authorized Tupperware Consultant

    In my opinion, I understand your concerns, but only a small fraction of Tupperware products contain BPA. A meal with canned foods (that contain BPA in the can’s liner) that baked in Pyrex leaches just as much BPA as microwaving in plastic products that contain BPA.
    Folks choose a Trusted Brand like Tupperware because it’s shatterproof, versatile, colorful, keep food fresh longer and it has a Lifetime Warranty! The majority of Tupperware does NOT contain BPA! Pyrex can shatter or chip off into food, become harder to clean, it’s heavier, it may not keep food as fresh and it may not be convenient for Little Jimmy’s lunchbox!
    If you use canned foods, dental sealants, costume jewelry for kids than you are exposing your kids to BPA. Experts feel that canned foods is the #1 source to exposure to BPA. If you use certain types of Lipsticks, toys and jewelry you open your family to risk of lead exposure. If you drive a car with vinyl seats, you are exposing your children to PVC carcinogens, which have already been banned in over 14 countries.
    The BEST advice I can give, is think about what your family's needs are and think about which choices will truly benefit your family. I LOVE TUPPERWARE and I choose to buy Tupperware for Versatility and Life Time Warranty, but I steer clear from the small fraction of BPA Products they offer.
    As a concerned mom, it's in our best interest to do everything we can (within reason) to safeguard our children. I have a flyer that I give folks who are concerned about BPA plastics. Less than 10% of Tupperware sold Worldwide contains BPA. Tupperware’s website states “starting in March 2010, they began to use other materials for non-children's products that had been made from polycarbonate for sale in the U.S. and Canada.”
    I wouldn't boycott Tupperware, rather just be aware of which pieces contain BPA. Any reputable Tupperware Consultant (such as myself) can offer you a list of which products contain this chemical. Boycotting all plastic products because a few contain BPA would be like boycotting ALL cars because a few had emission problems. The best way we can change the future for our children is to contact our government at all levels and demand these harmful chemicals to be banned!

    December 3, 2010 at 12:53 | Report abuse | Reply
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  21. BPA / BPS Free Thermal Paper Rolls

    BPA Free Receipt Paper does NOT mean Safe Receipts. The BPA is replaced with BPS which is just as bad.

    There is an alternative to Endocrine Disruptor Receipt Paper.

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