For Immediate Release
EWG Tests Find High BPA Loads on Receipts
WASHINGTON - Laboratory
tests commissioned by Environmental Working Group (EWG) have found high
levels of the endocrine-disrupting chemical bisphenol A (BPA) on 40
percent of receipts sampled from major U.S. businesses and services,
including outlets of McDonald's, CVS, KFC, Whole Foods, WalMart, Safeway
and the U.S. Postal Service. Receipts from Target, Starbucks, Bank of
America ATMs and other important enterprises were BPA-free or contained
only trace amounts. http://www.ewg.org/bpa-in-
The total amounts of BPA on receipts tested were 250 to 1,000 times
greater than other, more widely discussed sources of BPA exposure,
including canned foods, baby bottles and infant formula. 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.
BPA, a plastic hardener and synthetic estrogen linked by researchers to a
long list of serious health problems, is used to coat thermal paper
used by major retailers, grocery stores, convenience stores, gas
stations, fast-food restaurants, post offices and automatic teller
machines (ATMs). The chemical reacts with dye to form black print on
receipts handled by millions of Americans every day.
Environmental Working Group (EWG) collected receipts from various
locations in seven states and the District of Columbia and had them
tested by the University of Missouri Division of Biological Sciences
laboratory, one of the world's foremost research facilities in its
capability to detect environmentally relevant amounts of BPA.
Wipe tests conducted by the lab easily removed BPA, indicating that the
chemical could rub off on the hands of a person handling the receipt.
Scientists have not determined how much of a receipt's BPA coating can
transfer to the skin and from there into the body. A study published
July 11 by scientists with the Official Food Control Authority of the
Canton of Zürich in Switzerland <http://www.springerlink.com/
found that BPA transfers readily from receipts to skin and can
penetrate the skin to such a depth that it cannot be washed off. This
raises the possibility that the chemical infiltrates the skin's lower
layers to enter the bloodstream directly.
The BPA coating on receipt paper is an obvious concern for shoppers, but
even more so to for the legions of people who staff cash registers and
bag groceries at tens of thousands of retailers across the country.
Retail workers carry an average of 30 percent more BPA in their bodies
than other adults, according to an EWG analysis of biomonitoring data
from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics
, as of May 2009, the two largest U.S. occupations were “retail
salespersons” and “cashiers,” with more than 7 million people -- 1 in
17 employed Americans -- in those jobs.
“A typical employee at any large retailer who runs the register could
handle hundreds of the contaminated receipts in a single day at work,”
said Jane Houlihan, EWG Senior Vice-President for Research. “While we do
not know exactly what this means for people’s health, it’s just one
more path of exposure to this chemical that seems to bombard every
EWG’s lab tests found high concentrations of BPA in at least one of
several samples from Chevron, McDonalds, CVS, KFC, Whole Foods, Safeway,
the U.S. Postal Service, Walmart, and the U.S. House of Representatives
The good news is that other well-known outlets, including Target,
Starbucks, Bank of America ATMs and the U.S. Senate cafeteria, appear to
be using receipt paper without BPA. In another positive development,
Appleton Papers Inc. <http://www.appletonideas.com/
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has initiated a program
to evaluate the safety and availability of alternatives to BPA in
The mission of the Environmental Working Group (EWG) is to use the power of public information to protect public health and the environment. EWG is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, founded in 1993 by Ken Cook and Richard Wiles.