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Can Cash Receipts Pose A Hazard To Our Health?

Added February 11, 2015, Under: Environment, Health, How To, Technology

receiptSometimes toxicity comes from the most unlikely places. I have been aware of the drawbacks of hand sanitizers for some years and we have published a post on this subject.

But did you know that those cash receipts, which we might have to handle on a daily basis, have their own set of dangers?

A recent study found that when the researchers combined the three actions of using hand sanitizer (stripping the skin of the fingers and allowing for greater permeation); touching a BPA-containing receipt; and then handling greasy food; this chain of effects (the combination of triclosan, BPA and grease) led to maximum absorption of the BPA.

Some of us find cash receipts piling up in our wallet (until we have a clear out) while others never even bother to take them out of the store. We might be offered or handed such receipts several times in the course of a normal day.

What is the problem with cash receipts?

Measurable levels of BPA are found on the thermal paper receipts used for cash registers and credit/debit card machines. Most research into the effects of BPA in humans (and animals) have focused on dietary exposure – for example through liquids in plastic drinking bottles or foods that are packaged in cans lined with plastics containing BPA.

But these cash receipts are exposing us to BPA through the skin and even via our hands to our mouths.

BPA is a an endocrine-disrupting chemical

Endocrine-disrupting chemicals are similar in structure to natural sex hormones such as estrogen. By mimicking natural hormones, they have a number of adverse effects on both humans and wildlife including developmental, reproductive, neurological and immune system damage.

Thermal paper has a coating that turns black when heat is applied –  the printer in a cash register applies heat to the paper, allowing it to print.  But the paper also contains BPA and research has shown that regularly handling of this type of paper is enough to increase the levels in your body.  Frequent, small exposure can add up over time, contributing to the body’s toxic load. Most vulnerable are pregnant women, infants and children along with those cashiers who are handing out receipts all through their shift – day after day.

At the moment there is no way to protect cashiers. Unfortunately, wearing gloves would probably pick up the BPA from thermal paper and then let it migrate through, perhaps even making the situation worse as the hand could be in permanent contact with BPA from the glove.

But there are ways to limit your exposure to cash receipts

Some of you may think this is going to extremes, others will be grateful for the protection.

  • If you don’t need a receipt, leave it and even ask the cashier not to print it if possible. Here are at our local village supermarket, the cashier will usually ask you if you want a receipt. For many small purchases, and unless you’re purchasing something you may want to take back, a receipt is unnecessary.  And there is an  added bonus, you will be contributing to less paper being used.
  • If you need the receipt, ask the cashier to place it in the bag. When you get home, remove receipts from all bags and place them in a drawer or other special places just for the receipts, and avoid further unnecessary contact. Be sure to wash your hands well after handling receipts.
  • Do not place receipts in bags with food items, particularly those items you eat raw.   Instead, use a dedicated pocket in your wallet, checkbook or business card holder, or a coin purse especially for receipts.
  • If you keep all receipts for balancing your checkbook or for tax return purposes, store them in one place and always wash your hands well.

There is some good news!

Encourage your local suppliers to change to a BPA-free paper manufacturer. One is Appleton Paper and the country’s largest manufacturer of thermal paper receipts. Appleton Paper went BPA-free in 2006.

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