Maybe it’s time for me to finally replace my 10-year-old leather wallet. It must’ve been severely contaminated with years of BPA exposure from dollar bills and receipts. I carry at least 2 to 3 receipts from restaurants and groceries. Right now, in my wallet, I have 2 receipts from MOM’s organic store (they use BPA-free paper) and Baja Fresh. I have no idea if Baja Fresh uses BPA-free papers but because they are stored with dollar bills in my wallet, it is guaranteed to have BPA on them.
It is known that BPA is found on thermal receipt papers, but I had no idea it was this bad until I did my own research. I will share with you what I’ve found so far.
Studies on BPA Exposure from Receipts
- Synthetic estrogen BPA coats cash register receipts by Environmental Working Group (EWG) – BPA study done back in 2010. EWG collected 36 receipts from national brand chain stores and some government agencies.
- BPA on Dollar Bills and Receipts (PDF) by Washington Toxics Coalition (WTC) – WTC collected recepts and dollar bills from 20 states and Washington D.C. and tested them for BPA contamination.
- 2012 BPA Test, Charlotte, NC by Sandra Wingate and Dr. Greg Pillar, PhD, Queens University – Local study done in Charlotte.
BPA Exposure Findings
- BPA is found in large quantities up to 2.2% of the total weight (WTC). According to EWG’s study, Safeway’s receipt contained 20.7 milligrams of BPA which is about 2.8%, and the receipts from U.S.Postal Service had roughly 2.0% of BPA.
- BPA is found in 21 of 22 dollar bills tested.
Why BPA on Receipt is Dangerous
BPA used in thermal receipt is not chemically bound, which means it comes off easily just by touching it. According to WTC’s study, just ten seconds of holding a receipt transferred up to 2.5 micrograms of BPA, and when it was rubbed on skin, the transfer rate was increased 15 times. Another reason why BPA on receipt is especially dangerous is that we use it everyday.
The BPA-Free List (Stores with BPA-Free Receipts)
Still working on the list
- Yum! Brands -KFC, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell, and Whole Foods
- Walmart – BPA free since 2011, but a local study done in Charlotte found BPA on Walmart’s January 2012 receipt.
- McDonald – Bothe the paper and the ink used are BPA -free now, but again, 2012 study found BPA on McDonald’s receipts.
- Sunset Foods
- CVS – Phasing out by the end of 2012
- Trader Joe’s
Since 2010, there’s been great effort to phase out BPA receipts by the major national retailers. More restaurants, grocery chains, and even banks are joining the movement. It is a great news. But BPA on receipts is still widespread among small business communities.
Just do your best to avoid it. It is your best bet. Tell the cashier that you don’t need a receipt if it’s not a big purchase. If you really need the receipt, make sure you put it in a separate place such as an envelope. When you are at a restaurant and using a card for a transaction, make sure to place the card in the card holder on the top. Otherwise, your card will pickup BPA residue from receipts and dollar bills from other customers.
When you handle a receipt, try to fold it by touching the only backside of the receipt. I have to find a credible source on this, but someone mentioned on a blog that BPA is only used on the front side. You can’t completely avoid BPA even with this method, but definitely can limit the exposure.
Other Important Facts About BPA & Receipts
- In 2010, Appleton, one of the largest producer of paper receipts announced that they are adding red fibers to its BPA-free papers so that consumers can distinguish it easily. But Appleton dropped BPA from their products back in 2006.
- Back in 2010, Appleton was the only company to manufacture BPA-free receipt papers, but now it is really easy to find; many paper companies have started producing BPA-free receipt papers.
I wish there’s a way to test if a store receipt is BPA-free or not so I can start a big list of retail store who use BPA-free papers. Currently, the only way to check this is by calling. I might start working on it.
We need to remember that even after all major retail stores adopt BPA-free receipts in their chain stores, we will be exposed to BPA daily basis because the majority of small stores and businesses will continue to use BPA papers for receipts.