Shop receipts tested in the US nearly all contained chemicals that have been linked to changes in human hormones and damage to foetuses, according to a study.
“Employees who handle receipts or other thermal paper repeatedly in their jobs are at especially high risk,” according to the research by Michigan’s Ecology Center.
It says the chemicals, which are coated on the face of the receipt, can be absorbed through the skin.
“After a work shift, their urinary and blood levels of BPA and BPS are significantly higher than the general population.
“Combined with exposure from other sources like food packaging and adhesives, workers in particular can exceed tolerable intake values,” say the study’s authors.
Some 208 receipts from various businesses were tested and 93% tested positive for BPA or BPS.
BPA (Bisphenol A) is used in the linings of some plastic food and drink containers.
Previous research has said it could harm the development of foetuses and children, as well as cause a spike in blood pressure in adults.
European and US food agencies have said current levels of BPA in food packaging are safe however, but many manufacturers have still stopped using it.
BPS (Bisphenol S) is intended to be a replacement, but the Ecology Center says studies have shown it is at “least as detrimental” as BPA.
The receipts collected in its research found 75% showed up BPS and 18% BPA.
Businesses should consider switching to a “phenol-free” way of printing receipts, say the study’s authors, or use a new type of paper with a coating that does not come off.
They also recommend more use of email receipts, workers wearing disposable gloves, shoppers washing their hands after handling receipts, or folding them to avoid contact with the printed side.
In Europe, the European Commission has banned the use of BPA in thermal paper by 2020 and the effects of BPS will also be looked at.