At the height of the holiday shopping season, a new report was released Wednesday that gave new meaning to the phrase “toxic assets,” Swampscott-based HealthLink noted in commenting on a report from the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families coalition.
The report, “On The Money: BPA on Dollar Bills and Receipts,” examines bisphenol A contamination of paper currency and cash register receipts. BPA is a hormone-disrupting chemical linked to serious health problems such as cancer, infertility and early puberty.
Researchers found that half of the thermal paper receipts tested had large quantities of unbound BPA; 95 percent of the dollar bills tested positive for lower amounts. Unlike BPA in baby bottles and other products, BPA on thermal paper isn’t chemically bound in any way: it’s a powdery film on the surface of receipts.
Data from this report indicate that this highly toxic chemical does not, in fact, stay on the paper, but rather easily transfers to skin and likely to other items that it rubs against.
Swampscott-based HealthLink and other groups are calling for state and federal legislation that will broadly reform chemical safety policies and prevent harm to health from toxic chemicals like BPA.
“Toxic chemicals like BPA that are linked to breast cancer and other chronic diseases do not belong in everyday items like receipts,” said Erin Boles, associate executive director for the Massachusetts Breast Cancer Coalition. “Research shows that BPA can even interfere with the effectiveness of chemotherapy. This is a clear example of how our current laws are failing us and need to be updated to reflect modern science.”
Present in 93 percent of all Americans, scientists studying BPA have hypothesized the major route of human exposure is through food, as BPA is used as a liner in nearly all canned food and beverages. This study indicates that skin absorption from thermal paper receipts with unbound BPA may lead to exposure at levels equivalent to exposure from food sources.
“If we are to protect babies from health damage associated with BPA, we have to break the cycle of contact that starts with their mothers,” said Martha Dansdill, HealthLink spokeswoman and Swampscott Board of Health member. “It makes no sense to expose the unsuspecting public to a toxic chemical like this when there are BPA-free receipt options.”