Chemicals in Store Register Receipts and Fast Food Wrappers

Before the next time you ask a cashier for a receipt, think twice! It might be tainted with bisphenol A, aka BPA.

A recent study in Environmental Health Perspectives showed that cashiers had highest BPA exposure because of its use in thermal paper for register receipts in a monomer form that is readily absorbed through skin.

BPA is also used as a polymer complex in hard, clear polycarbonate plastic water bottles and as epoxy resins lining aluminum cans.

The study raises concerns about widespread exposure to BPA from a variety of sources, especially for women who are pregnant.

Although the actual BPA amounts in receipts is so little it may not pose enough risk to worry about, it does raise concerns for people—those behind a register, for example—who are in contact with the thermal paper regularly.

The news comes no later than a month after Health Canada officially declared BPA a toxic substance that mimics estrogen, potentially increasing risks of breast cancer and prostate cancer.

Additionally, do you need another reason to avoid junk food? Here’s one: New research shows chemicals used to line fast food wrappers and microwave popcorn bags are contaminating the food and can be observed in the blood stream.

According to research from University of Toronto in the same journal, the greaseproof paper that is frequently used in the packaging of these products contain polyfluoroalkyl phosphate esters (PAPs) that break down into perfluorinated carboxylic acids (PFCAs).

PCFAs are known carcinogens and the scientists suggest that food packaging as well as non-stick and other water- and stain-repellant products like kitchen pans and clothing may be increasing exposure.

Controlling human exposure to these, and other, chemicals has become an active area of research recently as the public gains more understanding about the potential health implications caused by these toxic compounds.


Braun JM, Kalkbrenner AE, Calafat AM, Bernert JT, Ye X, et al. 2010 Variability and Predictors of Urinary Bisphenol A Concentrations during Pregnancy. Environ Health Perspect doi:10.1289/ehp.1002366

D’eon JC, Mabury SA, 2010 Exploring Indirect Sources of Human Exposure to Perfluoroalkyl Carboxylates (PFCAs): Evaluating Uptake, Elimination and Biotransformation of Polyfluoroalkyl Phosphate Esters (PAPs) in the Rat. Environ Health Perspect doi:10.1289/ehp

Published by David Despain, MS, CFS

David is a science and health writer living on Long Island, New York. He's written for a variety of publications including Scientific American, Outside Online, the American Society for Nutrition's (ASN) Nutrition Notes Daily, and Institute of Food Technologists' (IFT) Food Technology magazine and Live! blog. He's also covered new findings reported at scientific meetings including Experimental Biology, AAAS, AOCS, CASW, Sigma Xi, IFT, and others on his personal blog "Evolving Health." David is also an active member of organizations including the National Association of Science Writers (NASW), the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the American Society for Nutrition, the Institute of Food Technologists, and the National Audubon Society. David has a master's degree in human nutrition from the University of Bridgeport, and a bachelor's degree in English from University of Illinois at Springfield. He also earned his Certified Food Scientist credential from the Institute of Food Technologists.

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