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norman spector

A little-noticed study released last month by the Environmental Working Group may provide part of the answer to the elevated levels of BPA in teen-agers, reported in this morning's Globe and Mail. One would hope that Canadian environmental authorities are looking into these findings as they may apply in our country.

The U.S. group reported that BPA had been found on 40 per cent of the receipts from supermarkets, ATM's and chain stores - in some cases 1,000 times the amount found in the lining of a can of food.

Here's an excerpt from the group's press release:

"Two-fifths of the paper receipts tested by a major laboratory commissioned by Environmental Working Group were on heat-activated paper that was between 0.8 to nearly 3 percent pure BPA by weight. Wipe tests conducted with a damp laboratory paper easily picked up a portion of the receipts' BPA coating, indicating that the chemical would likely stick to the skin of anyone who handled them. The receipts came from major retailers, grocery stores, convenience stores, gas stations, fast-food restaurants, post offices and automatic teller machines (ATMs).

Major retailers using BPA-containing receipts in at least some outlets included McDonald's, CVS, KFC, Whole Foods, Walmart, Safeway and the U.S. Postal Service. Receipts from some major chains, including Target, Starbucks and Bank of America ATMs, issued receipts that were BPA-free or contained only trace amounts. …

A study published July 11 by Swiss scientists found that BPA transfers readily from receipts to skin and can penetrate the skin to such a depth that it cannot be washed off (Biedermann 2010). This raises the possibility that the chemical infiltrates the skin's lower layers to enter the bloodstream directly. BPA has also been shown to penetrate skin in laboratory studies (Kaddar 2008).

EWG collected 36 receipts and commissioned the University of Missouri Division of Biological Sciences laboratory to investigate their BPA content. This laboratory is considered one of the world's foremost research facilities in its capability to detect environmentally relevant BPA concentrations.

The Missouri scientists found that the total mass of BPA on a receipt is 250 to 1,000 times greater than the amount of BPA typically found in a can of food or a can of baby formula, or that which leaches from a BPA-based plastic baby bottle into its contents. These data should not be interpreted to suggest that policymakers shift their focus from BPA contamination of food, which is widespread, to receipts. BPA exposure from food sources is ubiquitous and should remain the first priority of U.S. policymakers. However, a significant portion of the public may also be exposed to BPA by handling receipts. Since many retailers do not use BPA-laden thermal paper, this particular route of exposure is easy to correct."