Toxic Receipts – What You Need to Know

Unassuming toxic chemicals surround our everyday lives and are absorbed into our bodies. One of these unassuming chemicals is Bisphenol A (BPA) and Bisphenol S (BPS). BPA/BPS are used in many applications, including on thermal cash register receipts. This is of great concern to retail workers, due to the high number of receipts that cashiers handle daily.

Why are BPA and BPS harmful to our health?

BPA is an endocrine disrupter. The endocrine system produces and secretes hormones that regulate the activity of cells and organisms in the body, and BPA/BPS can disrupt these cells and organisms, causing cancerous tumours, birth defects, and other developmental disorders.

What do the experts say?

Mary Shaw, a health and safety representative with UFCW Canada Locals 175 & 633, is shedding light on this toxic chemical found in everyday store and restaurant cash receipts. Ms. Shaw states that “any time we handle thermal receipt paper, the powder (containing BPA/BPS) comes off on our hands and is absorbed into our bodies.”

Dr. Frederick vom Saal, a professor at the University of Missouri, is a pioneer who first raised alarm about BPA almost three decades ago. He agrees that thermal cash register receipts are one of the most significant sources of BPA exposure. Dr vom Saal says: “The link between BPA exposure and human disease is much stronger today than it was 10 years ago. In one study, we have evidence of BPA in people causing deaths in fetuses during in vitro fertilization.”

Rick Smith and Bruce Lourie, two of Canada’s foremost environmental thinkers and leading experts on the health effects of toxic chemicals, are co-authors of the book Slow Death by Rubber Duck: How the Toxicity of Everyday Life Affects Our Health. They also agree with Ms. Shaw that thermal cash receipts are the most obvious source of BPA/BPS exposure.

Does everyone agree BPA/BPS are unsafe?

Some regulatory agencies claim that current BPA levels are safe, but they all refer to the average consumer’s exposure to food packaging containing BPA. These claims differ from UFCW Canada’s standpoint, as our focus is on the direct human contact to the BPA from thermal cash register receipts that contain up to 1,000 times greater mass than the amount in a can of food.

What is the government doing about it?

Canada was the first country in the world to ban the use of BPA in baby bottles in 2010. The European Union, Brazil, and Sweden have also banned BPA in infant feeding products by following the “precautionary principle” due to the uncertainties raised in some studies. In the United States, the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) withdrew regulatory approval for infant feeding products containing BPA, and companies like Rubbermaid have decided to remove BPA from all their products.  

It is now time to ban BPA/BPS from thermal cash receipts.

What can consumers do to protect themselves?

1.    Say “no" to receipts. Ask your favourite retailers to switch to e-receipts or bisphenol-free receipts.

2.    Receipts should not be recycled as they contaminate the recycling stream. Throw away your receipts in the trash.

3.    Tell the Canadian government to ban BPA and BPS receipts.

What can cashiers do to protect themselves?

1.    Fold the receipt with the printed side in as the back side is likely uncoated with bisphenols.

2.    Ask your employer to switch to non-bisphenol receipt paper.

3.    Avoid the use of hand sanitizers and wash your hands thoroughly whenever possible during your work shift, especially before eating.

4.   Bring up this issue with your workplace health and safety representative and ask them to bring it up at their next meeting.

Conclusion

Experts agree that there is no safe amount of any endocrine disruptor for the human body to absorb, and that is why removing worker exposure to BPA and BPS thermal receipts is of paramount importance.

You can act by visiting environmentaldefence.ca/receipts