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31 October 2011
Cash register receipts the new BPA bogeyman
by George Atkinson

Cash register receipts have been found to contain relatively high levels of the plastic chemical bisphenol A (BPA), prompting experts to sound a warning for individuals who may be occupationally exposed, such as cashiers. The report, in Environmental Science & Technology, also warns that recycling efforts mean the chemical also eventually contaminates paper napkins, toilet paper, food packaging and other paper products.

BPA has been linked to a variety of harmful health effects. It is used in plastic water bottles, the lining of food cans and a plethora of other products. BPA is also used to coat the surface of thermal receipts, where it acts as a developer for the printing dye. To see whether this source of BPA was a concern, researchers Kurunthachalam Kannan and Chunyang Liao analyzed hundreds of samples of thermal cash register receipts and 14 other types of paper products from the U.S., Japan, Korea and Vietnam.

Kannan and Liao found BPA on 94 percent of the receipts. The only receipts with that were BPA-free were those from Japan, which phased out this use of BPA in 2001.

BPA was in most of the other types of paper products, with tickets, newspapers and flyers having the highest concentrations. But these levels still paled in comparison to BPA on receipts, which the study said are responsible for more than 98 percent of consumer exposure to BPA from paper.

The researchers estimate that the handling of paper products can contribute up to 2 percent of the total daily BPA exposures in the general population, and that fraction can be much higher in occupationally exposed individuals.

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Source: American Chemical Society

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