Report: BPS replaces BPA in many store receipts
An analysis of more than 150 store receipts revealed that most no longer contain the endocrine-disrupting chemical bisphenol A; however, many now contain bisphenol S, which raises similar health concerns, according to a new report from the Ecology Center.
“Chemicals in the U.S. are innocent until proven guilty,” Gillian Zaharias Miller, PhD, senior scientist at the nonprofit Ecology Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan, told Endocrine Today. “Unstudied chemicals are given the benefit of the doubt. Consumers became aware of BPA and were upset about it, and in 2012, FDA banned it from baby bottles, so manufacturers looked for an easy replacement. BPS was available and allowed companies to label products as ‘BPA-free.’ BPS hadn’t been studied nearly as much, but it wasn’t in the sights of regulators or consumers, so companies swapped it in without thorough toxicological assessment.”
For the analysis, designed as a “citizen-science” study, volunteers submitted 167 receipts from several U.S. locations, primarily from southeast Michigan. Receipts were analyzed using FTIR spectroscopy. The FTIR method was validated using GC/MS, performed by a third-party lab.
Based on the FTIR spectra of the surfaces of 167 receipts from 148 businesses, researchers sorted results into the following categories: BPA, BPS, Pergafast 201, uncoated, and inconclusive.
Of the 167 receipts, BPS was the most prevalent (75% of receipts) followed by BPA (18%), inconclusive (3%), no coating (2%), and Pergafast 201 (1%), according to the report. Pergafast 201 was detected in receipts collected from only two Best Buy stores.
The researchers noted that only a s small number of businesses are using alternative, non-phenol developers or uncoated paper receipts.
“Because receipts with freely available BPS and BPA are so ubiquitous, they are primary contributors to human exposure to these hormone-disrupting chemicals,” the researchers wrote. “We are particularly concerned about the effects of repeated, daily BPS and BPA exposure on young children, pregnant women and workers who handle thermal paper.”
The Ecology Center cited several businesses in the report that were using receipt paper that contains BPA or BPS, including the retailers Trader Joe’s, Meijer and TJX Companies. Trader Joe’s has since issued a public statement announcing that the company is pursuing receipt paper free of phenol chemicals, including BPA and BPS.
“We are thrilled that Trader Joe’s responded to our letter telling them about our study and asking them to become a leader among grocers and retailers regarding receipts,” Miller said. “We will definitely be following up with them on their commitment to switching.”
The report follows other research that noted BPA was prevalent in cash register receipts. As Endocrine Today previously reported, experiments conducted at the University of Missouri in Columbia in 2014 showed that, when men and women held thermal receipt paper immediately after applying a hand sanitizer with penetration-enhancing chemicals, significant free BPA was transferred to their hands and onto the french fries they consumed.
Within 90 minutes, a rapid and dramatic average maximum increase was seen in unconjugated, or bioactive, BPA in serum (approximately 7 ng/mL) and in urine (approximately 20 mcg total BPA/g creatinine) through the combination of dermal and oral BPA absorption, the researchers wrote in PLOS ONE.
The Ecology Center recommends that store employees handling such receipts to wash hands often, and is calling on businesses to protect employees from exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals. – by Regina Schaffer
For more information:
Gillian Zaharias Miller, PhD, can be reached at the Ecology Center, 339 E. Liberty St., Suite 300, Ann Arbor, MI 48104; email: email@example.com.
Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.