To minimize exposure, employees who handle thermal paper should:
To minimize exposure, consumers should:
Alternatives to traditional thermal paper receipts
Businesses can make two purchasing choices that go a long way toward reducing exposure to hormone-disrupting chemicals in receipts.
Use electronic receipts and offer consumers the option of skipping the paper receipt.
Switch to less hazardous, drop-in replacement papers.
One option is thermal paper with a phenol-free developer such as Pergafast 201 or one of the other alternatives detailed in EPA’s 2014 report. That report gives screening-level toxicological hazard assessments of each developer. Pergafast 201 presents some developmental and reproductive hazards, although is expected to be poorly absorbed through the skin, in contrast to BPA and BPS. In another research report, Pergafast 201 and a developer called D8 were found to have no hormone activity in a cell assay (Goldinger 2015).
Another alternative is thermal paper with vitamin C (ascorbic acid) in the coating, but the coating also contains chemicals of questionable safety (Eckardt 2017) so we don’t recommend this product without further research into toxicological hazards.
A potentially superior alternative is a new drop-in replacement from Dow called BLUE 4EST™ Thermal Paper (Dow, 2017). According to the creators of this paper, it is not only phenol-free but uses a polymeric coating that does not come off like BPA and BPS and is approved for food contact. https://www.koehlerpaper.com/en/papier/thermal/index.php
Since e-receipts also reduce paper usage, they may help offset the cost of using alternative thermal paper by reducing the rate of paper usage.
With greater demand from the business world for receipt papers that don’t spread harmful chemicals, costs of these alternatives will decrease.
Selected companies producing or selling alternative thermal paper:
Manufacturer of BLUE 4EST™ thermal paper; contact to find distributors
Distributor of phenol-free paper for those buying in bulk
Pospaper (Pergafast 201)
Converter of phenol-free paper into small rolls
RiteMade converts Pergafast and Vitamin C-based thermal paper
Thanks to our funders for supporting this work, to Alister Innes of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency for helpful discussion, and to Mike Schade of Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families. We also thank our interns who collected, organized, and tested samples: Johanna Fornberg, Allison Birkbeck, Andrea Cruz, and Jelena Verkler. Finally, we appreciate the consumers who saved and donated their receipts.