Are Thermal Paper Receipts Toxic?
How many time a week do you touch a receipt and not wash your hands after? Probably all the time. What I’m going to share with you next, will probably change that. Did you know that thermal paper contain BPA? These paper receipts are used in point-of-sale receipts (e.g., for credit card purchases), shipping or other container labels, automated-teller machine receipts, parking tickets, and luggage tags and more.
Worrisome, right? Just when we thought we should only be concerned with BPA in plastic and aluminum cans.
Are thermal paper receipts toxic?
Most people are trying hard to limit their exposure to BPA which makes it especially upsetting to find out that every time you purchase something, you are exposed to this endocrine-disrupting chemical.
Major retailers use this type of toxic receipts. A report from the Environmental Working Group (EWG) found a high level of BPA in approximately 40 percent of receipts from a sample it obtained from some major U.S. businesses.
Unlike BPA in plastic bottles and other products, the BPA on thermal paper isn’t chemically bound in any way—it is a powdery film on the surface of receipts etc. This chemical crap is so easily transferable. Therefore, every time you handle this type of paper, you’re exposed. You can tell if the receipt is printed on thermal paper if it makes a mark when you scratch the surface.
Tips to reduce your exposure to BPA on thermal paper
- Wash your hands after contact with thermal paper
- Avoid putting the receipts in your wallet, purse and especially your food bags, since it may contaminate your food and everything it touches
- Have a small specific bag for receipts and when you get home dispose of them properly
- If you don’t need the receipt, leave it or ask the cashier not to print one
- Never let your children handle store receipts
- Wear gloves if you handle thermal paper regularly. i.e., you’re a cashier
My personal feelings about these toxic receipts? Skip the receipt all together and avoid bringing more chemicals into your home.
How to properly dispose of BPA receipts at home
Most peoples first instinct is to recycle their receipts because they think they’re made of plain paper. Logical assumption. Until recently, I have been doing this myself, but after learning they contain BPA I decided to look into it.
According to the Environmentally Preferable Purchasing Rapid Research (PPRC), disposing of thermal paper receipts in the trash is recommended rather than recycling them to reduce environmental release of BPA.
Apparently, recycling thermal paper is one of the largest culprits of BPA entering the wastewater treatment plants. This is due to intensive amounts of water used during the recycling process and the free release of BPA-containing coating materials.
Recycling thermal paper can increase human exposure to BPA. When the paper is recycled, it can contaminate new paper products, some which come in contact with food and then migrate to the food.
Placing thermal paper in the trash provides at least a buffer for BPA to break down within a landfill though the anaerobic conditions in many landfills often do not favor breakdown. Ultimately, landfill leachate should be collected and treated, which will further reduce BPA levels, according to the PPRC. Is this being done? I am not sure. But, it would definitely help to reduce the BPA in our water.
It seems almost impossible to avoid toxins in our environment. Consumers should be cautious of how they handle thermal paper to minimize their exposure. It seems that the least detrimental way to dispose of this BPA containing paper is the trash. I just hope that a better alternative can be found to rid BPA from our water and decrease our exposure.
Sometimes, I want to just live in a natural non-toxic bubble! Sigh!