What I Did Not Know About BPA

I am not one of those parents that does a lot of worrying about stuff.  Childhood should be full of play and organic learning experiences – that doesn’t leave a lot of space for fear.

But this is one of those things that kinda freaks me out.  We have known the problems with BPA for awhile.  I just assumed that it was being eliminated from my everyday when water bottles and food storage containers were changed a few years ago.

Not so fast.

Recent news about cash register receipts, ATM receipts and other printed items like airline tickets containing high levels of BPA shocked me!  But let’s start at the beginning…

What is BPA?

BPA stands for bisphenol-A and is a chemical used in plastics that is an endocrine disruptor.  What that means is that it can interfere with the function of hormones which can affect brain function and sexual development.  It has been linked to cancer, diabetes, reproductive problems and behavior issues in kids.

That is why there was such a fuss a few years ago to get it removed from baby items like bottles & sippy cups.  Babies and children are more susceptible to many things!

Cash Register Receipts and BPA Exposure - What I learned

There is BPA on Receipts?

Yes!  That is what started me on this mission.  I saw a news story about register receipts containing significant levels of BPA and how that can be transferred onto your hands and grab a french fry and you are now consuming BPA.

My immediate thought was…oh good!  At least I use hand sanitizer.

NOOOOO!  Hand sanitizer actually increases the BPA exposure because it makes the skin more absorbent.

BPA is used to make thermal paper.  The surface of the thermal paper has a layer of BPA as a heat-activated print developer which helps the printing to be bonded on things like receipts you might receive at the store, ATM machine, gas pump or on your airline ticket.  There are BPA-free thermal papers available.  Appleton Paper went BPA-free in 2006.

The problem is that this BPA is easily transferred to other surfaces, like you hands.  And when you add the hand sanitizer, the BPA delivery through the skin can be enhanced.

Receipts can transfer BPA onto hands and be magnified by hand sanitizer

Image from University of Missouri study, Holding thermal receipt paper and eating food after using hand sanitizer results in high serum bioactive and urine total levels of bisphenol.

So, you grab the receipt & food at a counter, sit down at a table with your kids and pass around the hand sanitizer and reach to eat.  Meanwhile BPA is now entering your system through the skin and on the food you are eating.

Since I learned about this, I have been overly conscious of the many times a day that receipts are handled without even a thought!  I have a stack of them in one of my car cup holders.  I have a bunch at the bottom of my purse.  There were three sitting on my kitchen counter.  The list goes on and on…

There is some debate out there as to how much BPA exposure is OK, but this just seems so unnecessary!  I think the more we know about this the better and then it is up to each of us to decide.

How to tell if your register receipt contains BPA

How Do I Know if My Receipt Is Printed on Thermal Paper?

Not all receipts are printed on thermal paper or thermal paper with BPA.  In fact, one recent research study stated a bit over 40% as their random sample.

You can “test” your receipt by rubbing it with a coin.  Thermal paper discolors with friction.  Regular paper does not discolor at all.

How to decrease BPA Exposure from Receipts

How to Decrease BPA Exposure from Receipts

There are a few ways that you can decrease exposure from BPA on register receipts.

  1. Ask to go paperless on the receipt or not print it.
  2. If they do print it, have them place it directly in your grocery bag so you are not touching it – choose a bag that has items other than food items that you would eat raw.
  3. Wash your hands with soap and water after handling a receipt.
  4. Wash your hands with soap and water before eating just like your mother told you!
  5. If you have receipts in your bag when you get home, remove them immediately and place them all in the same place.
  6. Never give a child a receipt to play with.
  7. Do not recycle receipts and other items printed on thermal paper.

Food Plastics Can Still Contain BPA

I made the incorrect assumption that when the BPA frenzy ensued a few years ago that food plastics no longer contained it.  But that doesn’t seem to be the case.

One thing to look for is the recycling symbol on the bottom that has a 7 in the middle  that has PC below the symbol.  The “PC” stands for polycarbonate which contains BPA.  If it has the word “other” below it, it may or may not.

Canned Foods {including Soda} Can Still Contain BPA

Some canned foods use a coating on the inside to allow the food to easily slide out.  This article was helpful on which foods seemed to have more BPA than others.   There are a few companies that are now adding “BPA-free” labels on their canned foods.

What surprised me is that I had no idea that included soda cans.  It is.  If you scroll down on this article on the Coca-Cola Company website to “Are your products safe to consume if they are in aluminum cans with liners containing BPA?“, you can see their response.

Helpful Articles on BPA

I am a mom.  I have done some limited clinical research in the medical field as part of my masters degree.  I am not an expert on this topic, but I felt like more moms had the right to know about this issue.  Here are some other articles that I read and appreciated for their information:

I don’t know if I answered many questions here, but I do know that I am going to change a few things around my house to decrease our exposure.  I also think that since there is BPA-free paper out there, it should be encouraged!

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