Bisephenol A (BPA) has been getting lots of attention lately for its ubiquitous presence in every day items, and unfortunately, its toxic effects. Though it has been used for most of the last century to make shatterproof polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins—the stuff found on the inside of most commercially canned foods and beverages—tthe first large study on its health effects took place only in 2008.
Now it has been revealed that BPA is also used in register tape receipts from major chain stores. Have you ever wondered why receipts have that strange, silky feel to them? It comes from the BPA. It used to be straight paper, which you can still find in those old school kinds of registers without scanners, just a lot of bulky typewriter looking buttons. But when was the last time you saw one of those? Maybe out at a quaint country store, but certainly not at Best Buy or Target.
A recent study suggests that the endocrine disrupters found in BPA are easily absorbed through the skin. The study discovered that the highest levels of BPA in pregnant women were found among cashiers; clearly indicating the toxic residue on receipts is absorbed through the skin.
Canada recently declared BPA dangerous to public health due to problems arising from exposure, including obesity—yes, even if you eat a healthy diet and regularly exercise. The estrogenic compounds in BPA can disrupt pancreatic function, which regulates insulin levels responsible for balancing blood sugar. BPA exposure has also been linked to serious neurological disorders, thyroid dysfunction, cancers and infertility as well as damaging effects on fetuses in utero.
The BPA thermal register tape can be found in Walmart, KFC, Safeway and even Whole Foods. Manufacturer, Appleton, is the largest register receipt distributor in the US and has recently launched a “BPA free” version of their tape in response to the study’s findings. You can spot these safe receipts by red fiber strands on the back of the paper. Though, that you have to have it in your hand in order to investigate whether it's safe or not, is a little self-defeating. Appleton says 75 percent of receipt paper shipped by year-end will be BPA free. If you’re not sure, you may want to skip the receipt altogether. Maybe stores will start accepting returns with just a smart phone photo of the receipt. Wasting paper (a.k.a. beautiful, important, one-of-a-kind Trees), especially if it’s toxic, seems unfitting for the 21st Century anyway.
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Photo: Jill Ettinger