Till receiptsAvoiding endocrine disruptors at the checkout
You know those little slips of shiny paper you get from tills and credit card readers? It might surprise you to learn that many of them contain harmful chemicals. Luckily, there are some steps you can take to reduce your exposure to these harmful chemicals, including endocrine disruptors, in till receipts.
When you’re at the checkout and the cashier asks you if you would like your receipt, just say ‘no’.
Many devices such as cash tills, credit card readers, travel ticket machines and adding machines use thermal paper to print. This paper is coated with chemicals that change colour when exposed to heat, and is recognisable by a shiny surface that tends to mark easily – you might have a few folded up in your purse or wallet.
Thermal paper used in receipts, until recently, often contained bisphenol A (BPA). Research showed that, after handling thermal paper receipts, people could absorb BPA through the skin and it could enter the bloodstream.
Health effects linked with exposure to BPA include: breast cancer, prostate cancer, endometriosis, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, altered immune system and effects on reproduction, brain development and behaviour, including behaviour in children.
Regulation of BPA in till receipts
Thankfully, there has been enough concern about BPA in thermal paper to prompt legislation. In the United States, Suffolk County in New York State banned BPA in thermal papers in 2014. And in 2016 the European Union agreed to restrict the amount of BPA used in thermal paper in order to protect people who regularly handle such paper, such as cashiers. This restriction took effect in January 2020.
But some companies are replacing BPA in receipts with similar chemicals, such as bisphenol S (BPS) and bisphenol F (BPF). These bisphenols also have hormone-disrupting properties. In other words, companies are replacing one harmful chemical with another.
However, bisphenol-free receipts are possible and some retailers are taking action on this. Fidra, a Scottish environmental charity, has been asking retailers what action they are taking to remove bisphenols from, and reduce the use of, paper receipts.
Here are some steps to take to limit your exposure to bisphenols in till receipts:
Ask shops not to give you a paper receipt. If you need a receipt, ask them to send it by email. If a shop doesn’t currently offer digital receipts, you can write to or tweet them asking them to provide digital receipts.
If you accept paper receipts, don’t mix them with fruit, vegetables or other fresh foods, such as bread, in your shopping bags.
Don’t store receipts in your purse or wallet.
Don’t let children play with receipts or put them in their mouths.
If you’re a cashier, ask your employer to supply bisphenol-free or digital receipts.
If you handle receipts, wash your hands regularly and before eating.
Don’t put till receipts in the recycling bin – because they can contaminate the entire recycling stream.