Toxic Chemical Rubs Off Receipts and Gets Absorbed by Skin, Report Finds

On Wednesday, December 8, a new study will be released by the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families Coalition and the Washington Toxics Coalition giving new meaning to the phrase “toxic currency”. The groups researched BPA – a hormone disrupting chemical linked to serious health problems such as cancer, infertility, and early puberty –in connection with something we touch every day: money and cash register receipts.

“On The Money: BPA on Dollar Bills and Receipts” set out to investigate the extent to which thermal receipt paper containing BPA has permeated the market, and whether that BPA is escaping onto the money that lies close to these receipts in people’s wallets. Unlike BPA in baby bottles and other products, BPA on thermal paper isn’t chemically bound in any way: it’s free BPA in a powdery film on the surface of receipts. Data from this report indicate that in fact, this highly toxic chemical does not stay on the paper, but rather easily transfers to our skin and other items that it rubs against.

Researchers collected receipt paper from major retailers including Home Depot, Wal-Mart, Safeway and Costco, plus the Rayburn Café serving the U.S. House of Representatives, and the Hart American Grill serving the U.S. Senate. They also tested paper currency from a total of 18 states and Washington, D.C. Although the levels of BPA detected on money were much lower than those on receipt paper, the near-ubiquitous presence of BPA on dollar bills highlights the fact that even an informed consumer would have a hard time escaping exposure.

The report recommends that the 112th Congress make reform of the failed Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) a top legislative priority, and that the new law acts fast to eliminate the worst chemicals, including BPA, from consumer products. In addition, the new law should consider impacts from multiple exposures and multiple chemicals. Traditional methods of assessment that evaluate risk from single chemical exposures do not work in a world where we are exposed to BPA from food cans, water bottles, receipts, and even money.