Is the BPA on Your Receipts Giving Your Staff Cancer?

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Your paper receipts could be causing breast cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and negative brain alterations. Ouch. As a retailer, you never want to be putting your customers or your staff in danger, at the very least because you don’t need to deal with lawsuits and OSHA violations. So it’s pretty important to investigate possible causes of harm within your store and deal with them.

What makes those flimsy paper receipts so harmful? It’s a chemical called bisphenol-A, or BPA. BPA mimics estrogen in the human body, which causes it to disrupt the body’s natural hormone system. This disruption is most dangerous in children, potentially causing negative brain alterations and early puberty. In adults, however, BPA has been linked to breast cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and miscarriages, among other effects. BPA has been around for years and years - it’s actually found in cans and bottles. However, it’s far less dangerous there because the chemical is “bounded” in a way that makes it harder for the body to absorb it.

How does this chemical get onto receipts?

Receipts are printed on thermal paper, which means that the paper is darkened when it is scratched. (Keeps you from having to keep buying new ink for the receipt printer.) But what makes paper thermal is a coating of highly concentrated, powdery BPA - a coating that sticks easily to fingers. In this powdered form, BPA is unbounded and easily absorbs through the skin on your fingers or wherever else you touch the receipt to. In fact, if you happen to touch your receipt before touching food (if you’re out to lunch at a fast casual place, for instance), you will transfer the BPA to your food and then ingest it.

BPA is largely safe in small amounts, but studies show that prolonged periods of contact with receipts or contact with damp hands raises BPA-level in the body significantly.

Urine testing shows that person who touches receipts for two hours sees a 5 microgram increase in BPA levels - participants started the test at 1.8 micrograms per liter and ended with 5.8. 8 hours of contact raised BPA levels to an alarming 11.1 micrograms! Other testing showed that 45 seconds of contact after hand sanitizing raised BPA levels even more significantly - dry hands only absorbed 1% as much BPA. This is especially alarming given the fact that it’s not rare for a customer to place a receipt between their lips as they try to figure out where to store the receipt.

What does this mean for your store?

All this testing shows that cashiers are at a very high risk for BPA exposure. Any managers or employees who file the store’s copy of receipts are also at high risk. Over the long term, your cashiers could face serious side effects from handling thermal paper so often. So how can you prevent your staff from risking high amounts of BPA?

1. Have employees thoroughly dry their hands before handling receipts.

While certainly not eliminating the BPA exposure, keeping one’s hands dry ensures that less BPA is absorbed through the skin. Wet skin, as testing shows, absorbs large quantities of BPA very quickly.

2. Have pregnant employees work elsewhere in your store.

Pregnant women and children are at the highest risk for BPA effects. Any pregnant staff members should be encouraged to not handle receipts and should be stationed at other points in the store, or given gloves to wear.

3. Switch to digital.

The absolute best way to prevent BPA exposure to is to ditch the paper completely. Digital receipts are safer, greener, and the method everyone will be using soon, anyway. Additionally, using a solution like flexReceipts, which provides dynamic digital receipts, will not only keep your cashiers and customers safe, but will also vastly improve your customer experience.

Conclusion

BPA has been conclusively linked to a lot of nasty diseases, and it’s been conclusively proven that paper receipts make it very easy for people to absorb BPA. It’s time for you as a retailer to take action.