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Study Shows 80% of Receipts at Major Stores Contain Toxic Chemicals

Source: Rob Stothard/ Getty Images

When you’re doing your holiday shopping the last thing you are probably thinking about is toxic materials. According to a new study, we should be worried about just that. Your shopping receipts may be much more hazardous than you thought. Here’s what you should know.

The study conducted a rapid screening test on the receipts from 144 major chain stores in the United States. This included familiar stores such as McDonald’s, Costco, Ace Hardware, Old Navy, Shell Gas Stations, and Walmart, among many more. They uncovered a whopping 80% of the receipts contained toxic chemicals such as bisphenol A, or BPA (and BPS).

BPA is an industrial chemical used to make some plastics, but it is not safe for consumption. The effects of BPA are still widely undetermined, but some studies have found harmful effects on the reproductive systems of animals. It is classified as a hormone-disrupting chemical according to the Ecology Center. Unfortunately, BPA has been used in plastics since the 1950’s so almost all Americans have BPA in their systems, according to the CDC.

BPA can still be found in some electronics, plastic containers, eyewear, water bottles, and laundry detergent. Some states are making moves to irradicate BPA; Washington became the first state to officially ban the use of bisphenols in receipt paper.

With the uncertainty surrounding the effects of the chemical, some stores have vowed to make the switch to non-toxic paper. For instance, Walgreens promised its consumers that it would completely irradicate phenol-based chemicals from its paper in all its U.S. locations by the end of the year. Other stores have promised the same, and the study notes that the percentage of BPA has actually decreased from 93% in 2017. Ideally, more stores will agree to use toxic-free paper and that percentage will continue to decrease.

However, in the meantime, experts recommend shoppers avoid paper receipts when possible or use hand sanitizer after touching the paper. Another safe option is to only touch the back side of the receipt as this isn’t typically coated in chemicals.

Sadly, BPA is not only harmful to people but the environment as well. When these chemicals are used in the paper, they contaminate other items in the recycling system.

So, why are these harmful chemicals used in the first place? According to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, chemicals like BPA and BPS “assist in the heat-activated printing process”.

Until stores dedicate themselves to completely eradicating these kinds of chemicals from receipt paper, it is a good idea to avoid paper receipts when possible. E-receipts are a better option for both you and the environment. But, if you do elect to take a paper receipt you should avoid placing it in your bag with your groceries and other items.


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