The Dangers Of Handling Cash Receipts

“Chemical companies promised to change the world with their plastics… and they did. They’re systematically destroying the soil, water, air, and our bodies.”

~ Ty Bollinger

In 2010, Canada was the first country to declare bisphenol A, or BPA, to be toxic to human health and banned its use in baby bottles that same year.

Yet despite any efforts to reduce exposure to BPA, a national study shows that nine years later, more than 90 percent of Canadians have BPA in their blood and that this exposure may actually be getting worse, not better.¹

What Is BPA?

BPA is a dangerous compound used in plastics. It’s found in our dust, air, food and water and leaches into our bodies when we consume food and beverages that have been packaged using BPA such as canned foods and reusable water bottles. We can also absorb it through our skin after we touch items that contain BPA.

This toxic chemical is an endocrine disruptor that mimics estrogen in the body.

It’s linked to a wide range of health problems including brain and behavioral issues, high blood pressure, infertility, cancer and may make people prone to obesity. Environment Canada lists this toxic substance alongside arsenic, asbestos, lead and mercury.

Read more about the dangers of BPA here.

The BS In “BPA-Free”

BPA-free doesn’t mean that it’s chemical free. Many manufacturers have simply replaced BPA with other chemicals that are as toxic and some even more toxic than BPA.²

Gradually over the years, we started using stainless steel water bottles, glass cups, buying less canned and packaged foods, storing foods in glass containers, replacing plastic shower curtains with glass doors, choosing products made of natural wood or bamboo and bringing mesh produce bags and reusable cloth shopping bags to the grocery stores.

BPA is ubiquitous and it would be ludicrous to think that we could eliminate it completely from our lives.

Afterall, it’s everywhere… including our food, water and air!

Yet despite all our efforts to reduce our exposure, I was astonished to discover that BPA still managed to have a strong presence in our lives.

And all it takes is one shopping trip.

Grocery Store Fiend

Every time you go shopping, you may inadvertently be getting an unhealthy dose of BPA. And I don’t mean through packaged food and beverage containers either.

As soon as you touch a BPA-laden paper receipt such as the ones you get at the gas pumps, ATM or retail cash registers, the toxin enters our bloodstream through the skin immediately. The damage is worse than if we ingest BPA.³

That’s because most receipts are made from thermal paper. Companies prefer this type of paper because it doesn’t require ink, only heat to imprint the image and ultimately, is cheaper to produce.

A quick test to tell if you’re handling thermal paper is to scratch the printed side of the paper. If you see a dark mark, the paper is thermal.

According to John Warner, Ph.D., president of the Warner Babock Institute for Green Chemistry, “There’s more BPA in a single thermal paper receipt than the total amount that would leach out from a polycarbonate water bottle used for many years.”


Handling Receipts

How often are you in contact with cash receipts?

Even if you’re not a cashier, you could still be getting more BPA exposure than you realize because thermal paper is used in so many receipts – such as airline boarding passes, train and movie tickets, luggage tags, flyers, magazines, paper towels and toilet paper.

I don’t know about you, but I’m one of those shoppers who likes to review their grocery bill then hang on to it in the event something needs to be returned or exchanged.

I’m known to carry wads of receipts in my wallet at all times. And only when it gets to the exploding point do I eventually go through and toss out any old receipts I no longer needed. I can only imagine how much BPA I expose myself to each time I do that.

Worse, I don’t remember ever washing my hands after touching my receipts.

Double yikes.

6 Ways To Reduce Your BPA Exposure

The good news is that once you reduce your exposure, BPA levels quickly decrease in the body!

Here are 6 ways to reduce your exposure with handling cash receipts:

1. Decline paper receipts – opt for emailed receipts, if possible. Use your smartphone for plane and train tickets.

2. Wash your hands – within 4 minutes of handling thermal paper especially before cooking or eating food; use soap and water instead of alcohol-based hand sanitizers which increases BPA absorption.

3. Avoid handling thermal paper – if you’re pregnant and keep it away from children as well; early life exposure to BPA poses the greatest potential health risks.

4. Wear nitrile gloves – the ones you see in doctor’s offices, if you are in frequent contact with receipts.

5. Don’t use hand sanitizers, and other skin products like sunscreen or lotion prior to handling receipts. BPA is transferred 185 times more to a wet hand that’s been slathered with hand sanitizer than to a dry hand.4

6. Use an envelope to store receipts instead of carrying them loose in your wallet or purse; the coating can rub off on other items and when you handle those, you’re picking up the BPA.

Hand Sanitizer Hazards

If you’re still using commercial hand sanitizers and think that they will protect you after handling thermal receipts, think again.

Studies have shown that holding receipts for only 2 seconds after using hand sanitizers dramatically increases BPA absorption by 40 percent of the maximum BPA transfer amount due to the dermal penetration enhancers in hand sanitizers.5

So put the hand sanitizer away, or better yet, toss it out! Wash your hands with soap and water instead.

Contamination Concerns

In fast food restaurants, people can unknowingly be contaminated with BPA when food items are placed on top of receipts, people putting receipts in their mouth when they have a lot of items to carry or using receipts as napkins to wipe their mouth.

I’ve passed several receipts to my daughter without realizing I was contaminating her with dangerous chemicals.

Heck, how many of you have written on the back of a receipt, like your phone number and passed it to someone else? I think we all have.

Retail workers carry about 30 percent more BPA in their bodies than other adults.6

Recycling BPA cash receipts contaminates recycled paper products like toilet paper. And throwing them out also contaminates the environment, so why not just skip the hardcopy altogether and opt for an electronic receipt instead.

I’m technologically inept and have misplaced numerous files sent to me electronically, but ultimately it will be doing the environment, my and the cashier’s health a big favour in the long run.

Be Aware, Then Take Steps

Remember, it’s not about making drastic changes all at once. Just being aware is the first step to reducing your exposure to this dangerous chemical. Then gradually, take steps to remove as much BPA from your life as possible.

It can be done, if you want it to be.

Don’t let this toxic chemical get under your skin.

After all, your life is worth a lot more than a pile of cash receipts.

What steps are you taking to reduce your BPA exposure?



¹ Hentges , Steve. “BPA Exposure In Canada – How Low Can You Go?” Science 2.0, 8 Sept. 2017,
² Rochester, Johanna R., et al. “Bisphenol S and F: A Systematic Review and Comparison of the Hormonal Activity of Bisphenol A Substitutes”., Environmental Health Perspectives, 16 Mar. 2016,
³ McCormick, Lindsay. “More than Skin-Deep: Have We Underestimated the Role of Dermal Exposures to BPA?” Growing Returns, 23 Oct. 2014,
4 Hormann, Annette M., et al. Current Neurology and Neuroscience Reports., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 22 Oct. 2014,
5 Curtis, Sandra. “Is BPA on Thermal Paper A Health Risk?” Plastic Pollution Coalition, 23 Dec. 2016,
6 Lunder, Sonya, et al. “BPA Coats Cash Register Receipts.” EWG, 27 July 2010,