To minimize exposure, employees who handle thermal paper should:

  • Ask customers: “Do you need a receipt?” or "Is an e-receipt okay?” Do not print a receipt unless asked and avoid printing ‘merchant copies’ of receipts.
  • Use disposable gloves or protective food grade silicone fingertips on the index fingers and thumbs when tearing receipts, changing receipt rolls, or cleaning machines.
  • Reduce contact with the coated side of receipts by folding the receipt in on itself before handing to customer.
  • In general, avoid hand to mouth contact when handling receipts. Especially avoid handling receipts after using alcohol-based cleaners or when hands are wet, or when greasy from food or lotion.
  • Wash and dry hands thoroughly during breaks, after changing receipt rolls or cleaning machines, and prior to and after eating or preparing food.
  • Keep drink/meal receipts dry. Do not adhere them to the sides of moist glassware or place directly on food during its preparation (Minnesota PCA n.d.).

To minimize exposure, consumers should:

  • Avoid getting printed receipts or choose an electronic receipt option.
  • If you take a receipt, fold it printed side in. The backside is typically not coated.
  • Consider keeping a flat bag or envelope in your backpack or purse in which to place receipts. BPA and BPS readily rub off onto items in your purse or wallet.
  • Do not hand receipts to babies or children.
  • Wash hands after handling receipts (Minnesota PCA n.d.).
  • Put receipts into the trash instead of recycling to reduce contamination in recycled paper products.

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.

  1. Use electronic receipts and offer consumers the option of skipping the paper receipt.

  2. 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.

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

  • Koehler

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.