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BPA Exposure from Sales Receipts

Oct 9, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP

BPA—also known as bisphenol A—is making headlines nearly every day for its links to a growing array of adverse health effects, as well as its growing ubiquity. US News just reported that the toxin, which has been found in many consumer products, has also now been found to be present in common paper receipts.

A commonly used plastic hardener and polycarbonate plastic byproduct, BPA has been found in everything from baby bottles, sippy cup, water bottles, aluminum can linings, eyeglasses, and cars, to DVD and CD cases and some dental sealants. BPA can also be found in appliances and windshields; on recyclable bottles, BPA as a component can be verified if the item contains recycling number 7.

BPA has long been connected to a wide variety of adverse effects, including increased risks of brain, reproductive, cardiac, and immune system diseases and disorders; problems with liver function testing; interruptions in chemotherapy treatment; and links with serious health problems. Studies have overwhelmingly found BPA to have negative effects at doses lower than the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) current standards; retention in the body longer than was previously believed; leeching into liquids being held in containers regardless of the containers’ temperature; and longer lasting damage, which can be passed to future generations.

With BPA turning up in carbonless copy and thermal imaging papers, its common usage has grown exponentially. According to Science News, said US News, John C. Warner of the Warner Babcock Institute for Green Chemistry found that the majority of receipts in use today are coated with BPA and feels exposure in this way is even greater than the exposure suffered from other products. “When people talk about polycarbonate bottles, they talk about nanogram quantities of BPA [leaching out],” Warner said. “The average cash register receipt that's out there and uses the BPA technology will have 60 to 100 milligrams of free BPA,” quoted US News. Free BPA is that BPA not “bound” into a polymer as it is in bottles and other products, which means it can be more easily ingested or inhaled into the body, said US News.

Warner noted that, “the biggest exposures, in my opinion, will be these cash register receipts,” said US News, which explained that once we touch a BPA-contaminated receipt, it can infiltrate our food. Warner also pointed out, reported US News, that the estrogen-mimicking toxin can be delivered into the body in the same way that time-released birth control patches work.

While not all receipt papers contained BPA, it is impossible—without testing—to determine which do and do not contain the toxin. Warner suggests, among other practices that pregnant women wash their hands after handling a receipt and that consumers opt for no receipts or sign-up for an electronic receipt service, which are also environmentally friendly, reported CNN.

Laws are either in effect or coming into effect in coming months in a variety of states and counties in the United States in which the sale of certain products containing polycarbonate has been banned, for instance, baby bottles, food containers, and sippy cups. Canada was the first country to announce plans to ban BPA, calling it a toxin and some retailers and manufacturers have announced plans to stop making products containing the chemical.


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