We all have some receipts gathering dust somewhere in our homes, or piling up inside our purses. After all, we're taught from day one that it's useful to hang on to receipts just in case we need the information for a later date. But could keeping all your receipts possibly be harmful to your health?
What chemicals are in receipts?
A new study by the environmental non-profit The Ecology Center found that 93 percent of receipts they tested contain Bisphenol A (BPA) or Bisphenol S (BPS) — two chemicals that have been found to have a correlation with a disruption of hormones, metabolism, and other body systems. This is due to many receipt printers not using ink and instead using thermal papers; the chemicals are part of a heat-sensitive layer on this paper.
As you hold onto your receipt, these chemicals can be quickly absorbed through your skin and into your bloodstream. Considering researchers tested 207 paper receipts from several different businesses, such as major grocers, retailers, and gas stations, it might be a bit jarring to hear that the vast majority of them contain such chemicals.
That said, it sounds like some businesses are starting to take action. Trader Joe’s announced that it plans to switch its receipt paper to one that is free of BPA or BPS "as soon as possible." Meanwhile, Best Buy has already been using an alternative free of BPA or BPS in their receipts for some time; the study's test on a Best Buy receipt revealed the use of Pergafast 201 instead — a urea-based chemical that is not estimated to be absorbed through the skin, according to experts.
How worried should we really be about BPA and BPS?
According to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, some animal studies suggest that infants and children may be the most vulnerable to side effects of BPA. Meanwhile, a 2015 study on BPS found that it may also have effects on organisms similar to those of BPA. But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says more research is needed to understand the full effects that BPA has on human health as a whole. As of right now, the chemicals have not been absolutely proven to disrupt anything, but the correlation found between the chemicals and harmful effects is definitely something to keep in mind.
So in other words, it's probably not worth panicking just because you accepted a receipt from the friendly cashier at the grocery store today. However, it's probably a good idea to avoid letting little kids handle them.
Plus, it's worth taking a few simple steps to limit your own exposure as well: Make sure you wash your hands after touching a receipt, especially before you eat something; avoid hand cream, sanitizer, or anything that makes your hands moist while handling receipts; and considering asking your local businesses if they've thought about alternatives to the chemicals.
You never know; they just might change them!
h/t New York Post