Cash Register Receipts – A Hazard

Thermal Paper Receipts BPA

Thermal Paper Receipts

These days we are vigilant while choosing food containers, drinking bottles, plastic utensils for babies and so many other things. We scour the store aisles and online shops looking for products marked as BPA Free. But one category that goes unnoticed is the insidious Thermal Paper especially in the form of store receipts that accounts to a major portion of paper receipts that we handle.

Although any form of paper consumption is a serious toll on the environment, thermal paper poses health issues as well.


So, What is this Thermal Paper?

A special fine paper that is coated with a chemical that changes color when exposed to heat. It is used in thermal printers and particularly in inexpensive or lightweight devices such as adding machines, cash registers, and credit card terminals.

[More @ Thermal Paper]


Are Thermal Papers truly harmful?

There are some articles out there claiming that BPA absorption due to thermal paper is in very small amounts when measured against the MADL (maximum allowable daily dosage) and if handled properly, it doesn’t pose any threat. Yet there are many research organizations producing stats and proofs declaring its detrimental nature. There are plentitude of agencies strongly advocating against the usage of thermal paper receipts.

BPA is applied to the outer layer of thermal receipt paper. BPA can rub off on the hands when touched and can then be absorbed through the skin or transferred to food or mouth when eating.

And there are researches indicating that although some thermal papers claim to be BPA free, there are so many other chemicals involved in its manufacturing; put together they appeal for a complex toxicology.

The laws are also becoming stricter with respect to BPA and thermal paper.

Effective May 11, 2016, the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment added BPA to the list of Proposition 65 chemicals known to the state of California to cause reproductive harm.

Businesses that fail to phase out the use of BPA-containing thermal paper before May 11 will eventually run the risk of receiving a Proposition 65 Notice of Violation from the plaintiffs’ bar.

Under Prop 65, businesses have a one-year grace period after the chemical has been listed to achieve compliance.

More @ Prop 65: BPA & Prop 65: Cash Register Receipts

It would be prudent to err on the side of caution and make mindful choices when it comes to paper receipts.


What can we do now?

Have you wondered why the store clerk asks you, “Would you like your receipt in your hand or in the bag?”

1) Say ‘No’ to Paper Receipts (of any kind) – In most cases you might not need that receipt again. Many stores can now handle returns & exchanges without receipts. If there is an option of digital or e-receipt, opt for it.

2) Go for Cash Transactions – If you are dealing with small business owners, check if they like to take cash. Ask for a hand written receipt, if you really want a copy. Many small businesses find it hard to have a choice of paper from their credit card merchant. Dealing in cash also helps the small businesses by keeping it simple and lowering their fees.

3) Wash Hands – Always wash hands with water after handing the thermal receipts. Handling thermal paper followed by cleaning hands with hand sanitizers raise the risk of heavy BPA Absorption. More@ BPA & Hand Sanitizer

4) Handle with Caution – Manage these receipts as if handling toxins. And keep them away from children.

5) Non-recyclables – Do not recycle thermal receipts and other thermal paper. BPA residues from receipts will contaminate recycled paper.


What about its impact on landfill then?

That is a bigger and unanswered question to me, although pragmatically thinking, the impact would be substantially detrimental.