Study Details BPA Exposure From Receipts

WASHINGTON, DC —  New tests show that simple handling of receipts can transfer as much bisphenol A (BPA) though skin as humans get exposed to from canned food. The tests also found BPA on paper money, hinting that BPA is easily coming off of receipts and onto other items.

In a report released today, the Washington Toxics Coalition (WTC) and Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, show how easily BPA can transfer from receipts to humans. "It's really an open question of how much BPA humans are exposed to," said report author Erika Schreder, a staff scientist with the WTC. "And this study helps to fill in that puzzle."

BPA mimics estrogen and has been linked to a range of developmental and reproductive problems, as well as other health issues. A handful of countries, seven U.S. states and some local governments have banned its use, mostly in baby products, since the bulk of concern coming from the health community centers on how the chemical can affect fetuses, infants and children.

As groups test more products and look at how BPA moves around, they're creating a clearer picture of all the ways that the chemical gets into people's bodies.

For this report, the two groups had Analytical Sciences, a lab in Petaluma, Calif., test thermal paper receipts from 22 stores and 22 dollar bills from individuals and one store. The receipts came from 10 states and Washington, D.C., and the money came from 18 states and Washington, D.C.

Thermal paper receipts are able to be printed without ink, instead using chemicals to "print" when heat is applied to the paper. BPA is one of many chemicals used to accomplish that printing.

BPA was found on 11 of the 22 receipts, ranging from .89 percent to 2.2 percent, by weight, of the money. Four of the receipts were used to see how easily BPA transfers to skin in two different ways. Holding a receipt for 10 seconds transfered .97 and 2.5 micrograms of BPA, while rubbing receipts transfered much more: 27 and 31 micrograms. Th key finding was that the BPA very easily came off the receipts.

Other tests have found that only about 2 percent of BPA stays on the surface of skin, and the commonly-accepted estimate of how much BPA gets into people is 50 percent, which factors into account people washing their hands and other variables.

The report extrapolates that if someone handled five receipts a day, they could be exposed to about 75 micrograms of BPA, which is about the same amount that people are exposed to through canned food, where BPA from epoxy resin liners can leach out.

Tests on monkeys earlier this year found that human exposure to BPA is likely higher than previously estimated, since it took more BPA than humans are assumed to be exposed to to arrive at the common level of BPA found in people.

The report also notes BPA was found on 21 of the 22 dollar bills that were tested, but it was found in much smaller quantities. All of the receipts with BPA had more than 50 parts per million (ppm) of BPA, while the bills had between .12 and 11 ppm.

"It appears to be transferring to money," Schreder said. "We can't say for sure receipts are the source, but it's highly likely."

Receipt - CC license by Flickr user Gustav H