Reality check: 80% of receipts in US restaurants, bars and grocery stores contain toxic chemicals linked to CANCER, study warns
The push to go paperless to save the planet might have another public health benefit.
A study found the vast majority of receipts used in the US contain chemicals linked to a host of cancers.
Researchers from the Ecology Center in Detroit found the toxic substances in 80 percent of checks used at restaurants, grocery and big box stores including 7-Eleven, ALDI and Costco.
It is the latest research to warn of toxic chemicals lurking in everyday objects, after a report last week highlighted of the dangers of toilet paper.
Receipts are made from thermal paper, a special fine paper that has a heat-sensitive layer containing color developers bisphenol A (BPA) and bisphenol S (BPS)
Bisphenol-based receipts from major businesses in 2017 and 2022
Receipts are made from thermal paper, a special fine paper that has a heat-sensitive layer containing color developers bisphenol A (BPA) and bisphenol S (BPS).
BPA is the oldest chemical, and is categorized by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as toxic to the reproductive system.
It is quickly absorbed into the bloodstream through the skin. BPA is forbidden in the European Union in thermal paper above 0.02 percent, which basically prohibits its use there. Receipt rolls must use BPA-paper instead.
BPS is the most common developer used in American receipts, according to the Ecology Center.
It was noted by the US EPA as a potentially high hazard for toxicity in human development.
BPS absorbs through the skin but not as swiftly as BPA. The EU chemicals agency (ECHA) said BPS is a reproductive toxicant and plans to regulate it.
Both chemicals are linked to hormone-related cancers including breast, prostate, and ovarian.
They are also associated with birth defects in developing embryos.
BPA has also been linked to increased blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Because of the way the ink develops on receipts, BPA and BPS are not bound to the paper, so the chemicals can easily transfer to anything the receipt comes into contact with.
Multiple studies have found that even briefly handling receipts leads to significant amounts of BPA or BPS being absorbed into the body.
The researchers tested 374 receipts from 144 major chain stores across 22 US states and the District of Columbia.
They found BPS in almost 80 percent of receipts tested — an improvement on 84 percent of receipts tested in 2017.
BPA, meanwhile, was found in less than one percent of receipts, down from nine percent in 2017.
Nancy Buermeyer, director of program & policy, Breast Cancer Prevention Partners, said: ‘BPA and BPS are known to disrupt our hormones and have been linked to numerous health harms, including cancer, birth defects, and other developmental issues.’
It is unclear how much exposure to the chemicals it would take to raise someone’s risk of cancer.
Melissa Cooper Sargent, environmental health advocate at the Ecology Center of Michigan, said: ‘Receipts are a common exposure route for hormone-disrupting bisphenols which readily absorb through the skin. Our studies show most retailers use bisphenol-coated receipt paper.
‘Switching to non-toxic paper is an easy shift. We urge retailers to stop handing out chemical-laced paper to their consumers and putting employees at risk.’
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