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It's Getting Better, but Dangerous BPA in Cash Receipts a Continuing Concern

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Washington, DCA recent study commissioned by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) found that a slim majority of cash register receipts analyzed for bisphenol A (BPA) levels showed either no BPA or just trace amounts of the substance. However, the remaining 40 percent of thermal paper receipts, originating with some of the largest retailers in the country, contained BPA levels anywhere from 250 to 1,000 times higher than products already known to contain BPA.

The report, featured 7/29/10 in CNN Health, cited companies such as McDonald's, CVS, KFC, Wal-Mart, Safeway, Whole Foods and even the US Postal Service as supplying cash register receipts and pieces of thermal paper with high levels of BPA.

Paper receipts from companies that showed just trace amounts of BPA or none at all included Starbucks, Target, and Bank of America ATM machines.

Bisphenol A has been a concern for the last number of years due to its carcinogenic properties. It has been found in everything from plastic water bottles to the linings of canned food and even baby bottles. A number of states have banned plastic baby bottles as a result.

A few years ago, a professor began sounding the warning bells about the presence of BPA in cash register receipts. Long before that, however, the manufacturers of thermal paper had been quietly altering their production protocols in an effort to rid their products of BPA. Appleton Papers, which indentifies itself as the largest manufacturer and supplier of thermal paper products in the US, phased out the use of BPA from their thermal paper line in 2006 out of safety concerns.

"After reviewing toxicology reports and available studies we concluded removing BPA from our thermal products was the responsible thing to do," Kent Willetts, vice president of strategic development for Appleton, told CNN Health.

Yet according to the study by EWG, a significant number of retailers continue to use thermal paper containing BPA in receipts, prescription labels, airline boarding passes and even lottery tickets.

CNN Health acknowledged a Swiss study released earlier in July that found BPA transfers easily from thermal paper to skin and penetrates to a depth that can't easily be washed off.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta noted that in its view more studies are needed to determine the real health effects from exposure to BPA from thermal paper.

While the average American may come into contact with a handful of thermal paper receipts in a week at best, those who work in front-line retail can come into contact with may more than that.

"A typical employee at any large retailer who runs the register could handle hundreds of the contaminated receipts in a single day at work," said Jane Houlihan, EWG senior vice president for research. "While we do not know exactly what this means for people's health, it's just one more path of exposure to this chemical that seems to bombard every single person."

Samples were taken from locations in seven states and the District of Columbia.

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