The culprit in this case is the chemical bisphenol A (BPA).(1) Linked to breast cancer, BPA got an original onslaught of publicity because of its use in the making of plastic water bottles and even baby bottles. However, more recently, in late 2011, another incidence of BPA consumer exposure has come to light.
Researchers with the New York State Department of Health and Albany’s State University School of Public Health teamed up to analyze hundreds of thermal cash register receipts. Embedded within the printing dye, in 94% of the study samples, was BPA.
Intriguingly, Japan has since 2001 banned the use of BPA in cash register receipts. But in the U.S., the potentially cancer-causing exposure to cash register BPA is further perpetuated by current recycling policies. The same study looked at more than a dozen different other paper products, and found that because receipts are recycled, they wind up being re-used for everything from toilet paper to napkins. But cash register receipts are the main source of U.S. consumer exposure to BPA by way of paper products. Only two percent of instances come from other items.
It’s not just receipts that appear to be carrying forth the dangerous BPA compound; currency can also be the bearer of bad chemical compounds.(2) After analyzing nearly two dozen receipt types and dollar bill samples, researchers at the Washington Toxics Coalition came to conclusions that are in line with their New York state colleagues.
A staggering 95% of dollar bills tested positive for BPA, while this group’s batch of receipts was a little on the lower contaminated side, at about 50%. The good news however is that unless a person literally chews on or swallows a receipt, the BPA cannot get directly into their bloodstream. And that is how BPA needs to connect with the human organism to active its potential breast cancer-causing and other detrimental health effects. So perhaps a more accurate answer to this article’s question is, no, receipts cannot cause cancer… unless you eat them.
(1) GizMag – “Cash Register Receipts Identified as a Source of BPA Contamination”, October 28, 2011, Retrieved November 10, 2011 from http://www.gizmag.com/bpa-thermal-cash-register-receipts/20317/
(2) WXIA-TV – “You Might Be Exposed to BPA Within Your Wallet”, November 3, 2011, Retrieved November 10, 2011 from http://www.11alive.com/news/article/211585/13/You-might-be-exposed-to-BPA-within-your-wallet