By James Harker-Syren (a.k.a Green Dad):
To be honest, I’ve never given receipts a second thought. I’d guess I’ve handled about 25,000 receipts as an adult (3/day). I’ve also handed them to my children to play with. When they were young, they often would put them into their mouths before I grabbed them back. Heck, I even have put a receipt or two between my lips when my hands were full. Imagine how shocked I was, after watching Plastics Paradise [http://plasticparadisemovie.com], to learn that many receipts are coated in the chemical Bisphenol A (BPA).
You probably have heard of BPA in the past couple of years because there was a huge campaign to pull it from baby and water bottles. Risks from BPA exposure are being actively explored, but evidence is gathering that this simply is a bad chemical. In short,
- BPA may act like a hormone, disrupting normal hormone levels and development in fetuses, babies and children;
- BPA exposure may contribute to infertility and birth defects [http://www.webmd.com/baby/news/20130731/plastics-chemical-bpa-may-harm-human-fertility-study;
- the FDA is concerned that BPA affects the brain and behavior of infants and young children; and
- animal studies have linked BPA to increased risks of all sorts of cancers.
The chemical industry has given up on saying BPA is not harmful. Now, they have moved on to their next defense: they acknowledge it is harmful, but not in doses to which we are normally exposed.
So why was it not known that many receipts are covered in BPA? Well, it turns out this was studied; and under “normal” conditions, the amount of BPA we absorb through our skin appears very small. What brought this into the news was a study [http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/d-brief/2014/10/27/receipts-expose-high-levels-bpa/#.VVZC_2D5XeM] that measured BPA absorption with wet hands. It was 100 times more toxic than with dry hands. I thought back to how my kids sometimes put receipts into their mouths. CRAP!!! We are letting companies off way too easy to just test their products under normal or ideal conditions. Unlike the U.S., Europe and China require companies to prove their products are safe. Seriously, in this regard, China has a higher standard that the U.S.
But here is what makes me extremely angry about this situation. Once we began this green journey, we started to get a sense of what to avoid. We try to buy things as close to the natural state as possible. We try to avoid plastic altogether. We buy food that is as natural as possible. Paper (receipts), to me, intuitively seems natural… it’s basically wood and water. So why the hell does anyone feel the need to coat it with BPA… seriously!!!!?
I now say, “No, thank you,” to almost all receipts. I admit I still have an awkward moment when I am handed a receipt that I want to keep. In these cases, I am trying to handle them as little as possible, and I will never give them to my kids again. I can’t help but worry about my friends who work in places that give customers receipts every day.