Cash register receipts, ATM receipts, the receipts the gas pump spits out, and even baggage claim checks—if they're printed on thermal paper, they probably contain bisphenol A, known as BPA. It's a chemical that raises safety concerns because it's linked to an increased risk of breast cancer, prostate cancer, cardiovascular disease, and reproductive abnormalities.
The BPA in thermal-paper receipts readily transfers to the skin, where it can penetrate quickly. A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that volunteers who were handling BPA-coated receipts for just 2 hours had significantly higher levels of BPA in their urine.
Fortunately, it's easy to spot thermal-paper receipts by rubbing the printed side with a coin or paper clip. If a dark mark appears, it is thermal paper. Consumer Reports has this advice for avoiding BPA in receipts:
- Get e-mail receipts when possible.
- If you must keep paper receipts, don't just stuff them into your wallet. Store them in a plastic bag. Not only does BPA rub onto your hands but it also comes off onto anything it comes into contact with, including paper money.
- For people who handle a lot of thermal paper, cashiers, for instance, wear nitrile gloves—the type you see in doctor's offices or in the hospital.
- And everyone should wash his or her hands after handling thermal paper.
Some manufacturers of thermal paper have switched from BPA to a similar chemical, BPS. But a government study shows that BPS may pose the same health hazards and also can transfer easily to the skin. An important note: Pregnant women and children are especially vulnerable to the health risks from thermal paper.
Complete Ratings and recommendations on all kinds of products, including appliances, cars & trucks, and electronic gear, are available on Consumer Reports' website. Subscribe to ConsumerReports.org.