BPA chemical found on money possibly transferred from receipts

Thermal Receipt

Thermal receipts have high levels of BPA - and they could be transferring it to money. Image: Flickr / nedrichards / CC-BY-SA

A combined report released by two advocacy groups has found BPA on money. Bisphenol A, a highly controversial chemical, was found on more than 90 percent of $1 bills tested. The levels of BPA found are well within levels considered “safe” by U.S. and European governments.

The basics of BPA

Bisphenol A, otherwise known as BPA, is an organic chemical usually found in plastics. BPA is usually used to harden polycarbonate and epoxy resins. BPA is also used to line metal of cans of food, among other things. BPA mimics estrogen in the body. In animal studies, BPA has been linked to everything from cancer to thyroid dysfunction to obesity and neurological disorders. It has also been found that BPA exposure at high enough levels can permanently alter DNA. Canada controls BPA as a toxic substance. In the U.S., BPA is a “chemical of concern,” though not yet heavily regulated.

BPA on receipts

In three studies released earlier this year, scientists found “preliminary evidence” that there are are significant amounts of BPA on receipts. Thermal receipts use a powder of BPA blended with ink to work. This powder, when heated or pressed, releases the ink and prints. Thermal receipts are used in a wide variety of restaurants, retail stores and shops. This powder can easily rub off the receipts and give a “microdose” of BPA. One study estimates that average individuals would not “receive more than about 2.5 percent of the tolerable daily intake of BPA from handling a single receipt.”

BPA found on money

After the study that found BPA can be transferred from receipts, researchers turned their attention to money. The Washington Toxic Coalition conducted a study of 22 $1 bills, and found a “significant” amount of BPA on 21 of them. The theory is that BPA on money could be transferred from the BPA on receipts — but it is not yet proven. This is, of course, a very small study that should not be considered authoritative without further research. If you are trying to minimize your exposure to BPA, handle money and thermal receipts as little as possible — at least until Congress passes a bill such as the Toxic Substances Control Act, which would classify BPA as a toxic substance.


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