|Many sales receipts in Europe are stamped "BPA free" so consumers don't have to worry.|
When he saw me sorting receipts from my purse I was told not to touch them for more than five seconds because they’re toxic. That was the buzz at school. Like holding your breath when you drive by a graveyard and honking when you go over a bridge.
But the thing is, the receipt rule is based on fact.
It seems that the thermal paper used for most receipts these days is coated in Bisphenol-A (BPA), an environmental toxin that is a known hormone disruptor and has been linked to reproductive problems and some cancers.
Researchers are even beginning to question if there is a link between BPA and diabetes and obesity.It’s the same chemical found in rigid plastic made from polycarbonate (some #7) that was banned from baby bottles in 2010 and was subsequently voluntarily removed from many reusable water bottles.
BPA is also in the plastic lining of canned foods. It leaches into foods at a level that Health Canada considers safe but independent tests have shown that some foods leach more than others.
Canned vegetables and pasta have shown the highest levels of leaching. (The Health Canada guidelines don’t take into consideration that some people eat a lot of canned food.)
The receipt thing stresses me out. For the most part I can avoid canned food and #7 plastic, but receipts are everywhere.
There is no information available to let us know just how much BPA we might be absorbing through our skin each time we touch a receipt but the sheer persistence of receipts means that we’re touching them all the time.
Even though we have limited information we should still do what we can to reduce our exposure.
- Decline a receipt if you don’t need it for your records.
- Keep an envelope in your purse (or a slot in your wallet) to house receipts so they’re not floating around in your purse or pockets getting touched more than they need to.
- Wash your hands after you have touched a receipt.
- Keep receipts away from children since they’re more susceptible to toxins and are more likely to put their hands in or near their mouths.
In the meantime some places in the U.S. are taking steps to ban, or at least reduce, exposure to BPA. The state of California has announced that it intends to add BPA to their list of known toxins which would mean that food producers that use BPA-lined cans or #7 plastic bottles containing BPA would have to include that information on the label. One county in New York State has banned receipts coated in BPA.
For now, it’s up to us to try to reduce our BPA exposure.
- Try to eat fewer canned foods.
- Opt for frozen or fresh vegetables or foods packaged in jars.
- Choose stainless steel bottles over plastic reusable bottles, since you can’t always trust a “BPA-free” label and it’s replacement compound may be no better for us.
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