Dollar bills and receipts tainted with Bisphenol A, report finds
Fifty percent of thermal paper receipts and most dollar bills tested in a new study are tainted with Bisphenol A, according to a report released Wednesday by the Washington Toxics Coalition. BPA, a chemical that disrupts hormones and has been linked with cancer, infertility and other health issues in studies, was found in 11 of the 22 receipts gathered from retailers in 10 states and Washington, D.C.
According to "On the Money: BPA on Dollar Bills and Receipts," BPA on receipts easily transfers to other items, including human skin, where it can be absorbed into the body.
"We did some rough calculations on how much exposure you could expect to have from receipts if you were to crumple them, and it ended up [similar to] what Americans get from food," said Erika Schreder, author of the report. "[Exposure from receipts] seems to be in the ballpark of what people thought was the most critical exposure route."
BPA has long been used in baby bottles and the linings of food cans, where it can leech into food items that are ingested. BPA operates differently in thermal paper receipts, and can rub off on the skin. According to the report, BPA that makes contact with skin easily passes through it.
The highest transference of BPA to the skin came from crumpling a receipt between two fingers and a thumb five times. This sort of crumpling deposited more than 10 times the BPA on the skin as simply holding a receipt between a finger and thumb for 10 seconds.
The report said the receipt that tested highest in BPA was from a Safeway store in California; it registered 2.2% BPA content by weight. The second highest BPA content was found in a receipt from the Meijer supermarket chain in Michigan; it registered 1.9% BPA by weight.
Receipts from a Trader Joe's in California, a Costco in Washington, an Albertson's in Montana, a Target in Minnesota, a Home Depot in Michigan and a Wal-Mart in Ohio found no detectable levels of the chemical.
Of the 22 dollar bills tested in the study, 21 tested positive for BPA, but at lower levels than thermal paper receipts. The study attributed BPA on dollar bills to a handful of possible sources, including thermal receipts rubbing dollar bills in wallets and coming into contact with common house dust. Dollar bills with the highest incidence came from personal wallets in Massachusetts, Arizona and Washington, D.C.
The Environmental Protection Agency has identified 18 other chemicals that could be used in thermal paper receipts other than BPA, the study said.
"Many unregulated chemicals are going into products that are linked to chronic diseases on the rise in the United States," said Schreder, whose group is lobbying for passage of the Toxic Chemicals Safety Act in Congress next year.
"The chemical laws we have, the Toxic Substances Control Act, doesn’t require chemical companies to provide information on the use of their chemicals or their hazards. We need a new chemical law that will act fast to eliminate the worst chemicals and to ensure companies provide full information on health and safety related to their chemicals."
"On the Money" was conducted in partnership with Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, a coalition of parents, health professionals, environmentalists and businesses concerned with toxic chemicals.
-- Susan Carpenter
Photo: Ken Kwok / Los Angeles Times