JANUARY 17, 2018
Cashiers and Shoppers at Risk
Ann Arbor, MI— The Ecology Center’s Healthy Stuff program released a new report, More Than You Bargained For: BPS and BPA in Receipts, in which over 200 paper receipts from 150 businesses were tested for known endocrine-disrupting chemicals.
The businesses included big box stores, drug stores, grocery stores, gas stations, restaurants, libraries, and other establishments. The researchers found that bisphenol S (BPS) has replaced bisphenol A (BPA) as the developer chemical in many thermal paper receipts, although BPA remains common.
BPA is concerning because the chemical interacts with estrogen and thyroid hormone receptors, causing a cascade of biological effects. Occupational exposure to BPA has been linked to increased risk of breast cancer. Evelyn R. Barrack, Ph.D, Science Advisor with the Michigan Breast Cancer Coalition adds that "It is vitally important that these toxic chemicals be removed from receipts so that consumers and cashiers aren't constantly exposed to them.”
BPS was found in 75% of the analyzed receipts. BPA was found in 18%. “Our research shows a shift in the marketplace toward BPS as manufacturers respond to consumer pressure and move away from BPA, a hormone disruptor with negative effects on fetal development and reproductive health,” said Gillian Miller, Ph.D., Senior Scientist at the Ecology Center’s Healthy Stuff program. “BPA and BPS are not chemically bound to the receipt paper. They come off onto fingers and enter the bloodstream within minutes.”
“Low doses of BPS disrupt maternal behaviors, the brain, and the mammary gland in nursing female mice,” explains Laura Vandenberg, Ph.D., of the University of Massachusetts – Amherst, School of Public Health & Health Sciences. “These data, and emerging work from other groups raises concern that the replacement of BPA with BPS is regrettable."
The report found three retailers using receipt paper with no thermal coating and one retailer, Best Buy, using Pergafast 201, an alternative free of toxic phenol chemicals including BPS and BPA. “Best Buy is committed to ensuring we are a good steward of the environment throughout our operations, and this includes responsible chemical use,” said Alexis Ludwig-Vogen, Director of Corporate Responsibility & Sustainability at Best Buy.
The Ecology Center is calling on other retailers to follow Best Buy’s lead. “We are urging major retailers such as Meijer and TJX-Companies to switch to phenol-free receipt paper,” said Lauren Olson, Science Campaign Director at the Ecology Center. Both Meijer, a Midwest supercenter chain, and TJX-Companies (TJ Maxx, Marshalls, HomeGoods, Sierra Trading Post), a national discount retailer, use receipts made with BPS. Neither company has a policy regarding chemicals in the products on their shelves or in their receipts.
Ecology Center is a partner with Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families’ Mind the Store campaign. In the campaign’s recent “Who’s Minding the Store?” retailer report card, Trader Joe’s and TJX received a grade of F. This was due to the lack of a public chemical policy and some other issues.
The Ecology Center sent a letter to Trader Joe’s regarding the presence of BPS in their receipts prior to launch of the report. The company issued a public statement committing to sourcing phenol-free paper on January 16. “We are now pursuing receipt paper that is free of phenol chemicals (including BPA and BPS), which we will be rolling out to all stores as soon as possible,” according to Matt Sloan, Vice President of Marketing-Product at Trader Joe’s.
Meijer, a Michigan-based retailer, has no public chemical policy. Healthy Stuff tested ten receipts from 7 Meijer stores, all receipts made with BPS coated paper. Meijer is unionized, and the Ecology Center has been in discussion with the United Commercial and Food Workers local 951. Ecology Center is urging Meijer and TJX to follow Trader Joe’s lead and make a similar public commitment to moving away from phenol-based receipt paper.
The Ecology Center recommends workers wash hands often or wear plastic gloves, but puts the onus on employers. “Businesses need to protect employees from occupational exposure to toxic chemicals. Phenol-free receipt paper is available. It’s just more expensive,” said Olson, who also encourages employers to offset the higher cost by offering customers electronic receipts. And if there’s still a price difference, Olson said, “Protecting workers from negative health effects is worth the price.”
Ecology Center is a non-profit environmental advocacy organization established in 1970 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The Ecology Center develops innovative solutions for healthy people and a healthy planet in four primary areas: Environmental Health, Sustainable Food, Energy & Climate Change, and Zero Waste. This work is accomplished through educating consumers to help keep their families healthy and safe, pushing corporations to use clean energy, make safe products, and provide healthy food, providing people with innovative services that promote healthy people and a healthy planet and working with policymakers to establish laws that protect communities and the environment. For more information visit www.ecocenter.org and follow @Ecology_Center