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Study finds bisphenol A on money
December 8th, 2010
12:01 AM ET

Study finds bisphenol A on money

A new report says Bisphenol A (BPA), the controversial hormone disrupting chemical widely used in plastics, is turning up in an unlikely place–the money in your wallet.

Researchers suggest that BPA is rubbing off cashier receipts and onto bills, according to a report titled "On The Money: BPA on Dollar Bills and Receipts," published by the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, and the Washington Toxics Coalition (WTC).

Ericka Schreder, a staff Scientist with WTC and author of the report, says lab tests confirm the chemical rubs off receipts onto the skin after holding it for just 10 seconds. WTC researchers first tested 22 thermal paper receipts collected from businesses in 10 states and the District of Columbia. Half contained higher than trace amounts of BPA. They also tested 22 $1 bills and found BPA on 21 of them. Schreder says contamination most likely occurs once receipts come in contact with money in places like wallets and cash register drawers.

"Levels on dollar bills were lower than on receipts, but the fact that our currency is contaminated with a hormone-disrupting chemical illustrates how our current chemical law is failing us," Schreder says. "Even the most careful consumer can't avoid BPA when it's so pervasive that it even contaminates money."

But Kathryn St. John, a BPA specialist at the American Chemistry Council says while some receipts made from thermal paper can have low levels of BPA, research shows it's safe.

"To the limited extent BPA is absorbed through the skin, it is converted to a biologically inactive metabolite that is rapidly eliminated from the body," St. John said. "Biomonitoring data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control shows that consumer exposure to BPA, which would include any exposure from receipts, is extremely low. Typical exposure from all sources is about 1,000 times below safe intake levels set by government bodies in Europe and the U.S. In comparison, the trace levels of BPA claimed to be present in dollar bills are insignificant."

In July, The Environmental Working Group released a similar study about BPA and cash register receipts. EWG researchers tested 36 and found 40 percent had high levels of the chemical.

Environmental groups and public health advocates have linked BPA to a number of serious health problems including cancer, diabetes, infertility, early puberty and heart disease. According to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), 93 percent of urine samples from people over the age of 6 have detectable levels of BPA, but research linking some health problems—particularly in adults–to the chemical has been inconclusive. Still, earlier this year the FDA said recent studies "provide reason for some concern about the potential effects of BPA on the brain, behavior, and prostate gland of fetuses, infants and children."

Schreder says with the growing body of evidence, it's clear reform of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA)–which gives the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) the authority to regulate chemicals–should be a priority.

"We need to update the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act with a new chemical law that both requires companies to provide health information on chemicals they produce and ensures that chemicals that can cause cancer, infertility, and other health problems can't be used in everyday products."


soundoff (1,657 Responses)
  1. Dr. Mama

    I'm afraid we're going to be playing catch-up with these environmental hazards for many years to come. I fear for our children!

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    December 8, 2010 at 20:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Patrick

    Why is the stock photo at least 25 years old? The $20 bill is two models out of circulation!

    December 9, 2010 at 02:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. mkass

    This is a real argument in favor of money laundering­! Seriously though, this does bring to light the continuing problem we have with a generally toxic environmen­t. The chemical industry has lobbied for decades that "low level" exposure is not a problem. In short, they have been lying. (Big surprise.) We've got to start really confrontin­g this situation and what it is doing to our future generations: http://organicconnectmag.com/wp/2010/11/philip-and-alice-shabecoff-environmental-toxins-and-our-children/

    December 9, 2010 at 13:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Rick Springfield

    That's why we invented debit cards. Get one.
    As for money, there's more crack cocaine and meth than anything else.

    December 12, 2010 at 13:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. dgatwood

    I can't believe anybody still uses thermal printers anyway. Ever actually try to keep receipts for tax purposes? You need to keep the receipt for at least six years, but half the time, they're barely readable by the time I take them out of my billfold. Frankly, the government should really just go ahead and ban thermal printers altogether. It's worth the extra extra five cents per transaction for receipts that don't fade and don't increase the risk of a half dozen fatal diseases.

    December 13, 2010 at 23:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. BadPatient

    Interesting that the EPA can step in on things like this. but...do they actually stop any of these things or just wait for companies to voluntarily remove them???

    December 21, 2010 at 23:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. S. Fox

    There's no problem, period. The amount that is there is so infinitesimally small, that there is absolutely ZERO health risk.

    Ignorant news stories like this are so ridiculous – they're only written to scare people and make something out of nothing. The first paragraph of the article should have been,

    "But Kathryn St. John, a BPA specialist at the American Chemistry Council says while some receipts made from thermal paper can have low levels of BPA, research shows it's safe."

    and

    "Biomonitoring data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control shows that consumer exposure to BPA, which would include any exposure from receipts, is extremely low. Typical exposure from all sources is about 1,000 times below safe intake levels set by government bodies in Europe and the U.S. In comparison, the trace levels of BPA claimed to be present in dollar bills are insignificant."

    So why is this even a story then? Ignorant, baseless fear-mongering... Simply another way to try and scare people in order to trick them into giving these people more regulatory power.

    February 20, 2011 at 20:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. ProveItNoob

    You're a dunce to say the least... PROVE your claims with the actual studies that counter these claims. The ball is in your court; where's your PEER REVIEWED evidence that shows BPA is "safe." Ooooh I remember when the government/corporations claimed that ASBESTOS was "safe..." Yeah we all know what happened with that "proof."

    There's literally 1000's of search-able sources with claims that this estrogen based chemical is NOT safe... So lets believe YOU vs 1000s of articles (growing as more research is being conducted) claiming diff?

    Definitely don't want MORE safety regulations on BIG industry... lmfao get real. SAFETY is always the best precaution regardless of profit and or price increase.

    PROVE YOUR CLAIMS; can YOU explain why receipts don't last at all vs in the past? Can you explain why the thermal ink smudges and gets all over your skin when even lightly handled? You can't explain anything can you, you're merely another sheep nudging others to be fleeced. Propaganda spreading nave.

    Yep a nice big fat dose of ad homenim attacks to put you into your place lol... What's next out of you; the Earth is FLAT? HHAHA.

    June 30, 2011 at 08:51 | Report abuse | Reply
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