BPA in Thermal Receipt Paper: How to Protect Yourself If You Handle Receipts Daily

Can you absorb BPA from receipts? You sure can...and pretty easily. Here's what to do if you handle receipts daily.

When it comes to minimizing your toxic chemical exposures, every little bit counts.

Harmful chemicals are in many items that won't even cross your mind. In fact, one surprising source of concern might be sitting in your wallet right now: receipt paper. Many receipts contain bisphenols, including BPA, which can potentially affect our health. Every time we handle a receipt, we come into contact with bisphenols, which can be absorbed through our skin. The good news is that with a few simple changes, we can reduce our exposures! Let's explore some practical ways to handle receipts more safely and reduce our overall exposure to these concerning chemicals.

What Is BPA and Why Is It Dangerous?

Bisphenol A (BPA) is a chemical used to make many plastic products stronger and more durable. You can find BPA in things like water bottles, food containers, and the linings of some cans. It helps these items last longer and withstand daily use.

BPA is a known endocrine disruptor, meaning that it interferes with our hormones. Our bodies could confuse BPA for estrogen, which can cause a chain reaction that impacts the production of all hormones [1]. 

Hormones are chemical messengers in our bodies that influence everything from our sleep patterns to immune system to fertility. Without the influence of BPA and other harmful chemicals, our bodies should create a delicate balance of hormones. 

When BPA and other toxicants enter the mix, it can wreak havoc. That’s why repeated BPA exposures have been linked to obesity, type 2 diabetes, and infertility, among many other health concerns [2]. 

What makes BPA so dangerous is that it's harmful to the body, even in small doses. So, we must do as much as we can to limit our exposures to BPA. 

Why Do Receipts Contain BPA?

While many people associate BPA with plastic containers, it’s used in many other products, including the creation of thermal paper. Thermal paper requires a chemical that reacts to heat to create the printed text and images. 

That’s where BPA comes into play. BPA is a cost-efficient way to produce sharp, clear printouts. It’s typically applied to thermal paper as a coating. This property makes BPA in receipts especially dangerous.

How Do BPA from Receipts Transfer to Hands?

The use of BPA in receipts is worrying because it can easily transfer to our skin. Unlike food containers, where BPA is tightly bound together to create hard plastic, unbound BPA is applied to receipts as a coating.

When you touch a receipt, the BPA in this coating can rub off on your hands. From there, it can get absorbed through the skin, releasing BPA into the body. 

These chances are especially high when a receipt is freshly printed. As we mentioned, the printed receipt contains chemicals that are having a reaction caused by heat. This causes images and texts to appear on receipts. 

Heat increases the speed of molecules, making them more active, which results in the images you see on the paper. These molecules are still active once the receipt is handed from cashier to consumer. Since the BPA molecules are still warm, they’re more likely to transfer to your skin.

This can also happen if you have damp or warm hands. In addition, research shows that lotions and sanitizers on hands can also increase the amount of BPA absorbed. 

Hand lotions typically contain ingredients that can make your skin more permeable. That’s so the beneficial ingredients in the formula can get to work more efficiently. However, this means that the protective barrier of your skin is slightly weakened. Therefore, chemicals like BPA can penetrate your skin more easily. 

Also, sanitizers tend to contain alcohol or other solvents. These ingredients can break down the chemical structure of the thermal paper’s coating.

BPA Alternatives in Receipts 

The world is waking up to the fact that we must avoid BPA as much as possible. As a result, manufacturers started marketing products as “BPA-free.” Unfortunately, BPA alternatives are typically analogs of BPA, including Bisphenol-S (BPS).

BPS is one of the most common alternatives to BPA in products, including thermal receipts. In fact, one study found that the levels of BPS in cashiers’ urine increased by 67.1 times in just 17 minutes of working. One participant used hand sanitizer prior to handling the receipts, and their BPS levels were 115.4 times larger [3]!

While it’s technically not BPA, our bodies barely know the difference. Therefore, BPS can also play a significant role in endocrine disruption [4]. In fact, some studies show that this chemical could be even more harmful than BPA [5]. 

If you are in charge of ordering receipts for your company, or if you’re shopping for BPA-free products, make sure to read labels carefully. You want to make sure they say “Bisphenol-free”or “Phenol-free” rather than “BPA-free.”

BPA in Thermal Paper and Occupations

Everyone’s detox journey is unique. For some, it’s more challenging to avoid BPA than others. BPA is so widely used that its presence is commonplace in many occupations.

Other sources of BPA in the workplace include:

  • Inkjet and laser printer paper
  • Ticket stubs
  • Coupons 
  • Laminating sheets
  • Binders and folders
  • CDs, DVDs & Blu-Rays
  • Electronic device cases
  • Adhesive labels
  • Stamps
  • Tape

Occupations with High Risks of BPA Exposures Through Receipts

Working with receipts is an important part of many jobs. It’s important to be aware of your exposures so you can address them accordingly. 

Here are some common occupations that handle receipts with BPA:

  • Cashiers
  • Bank tellers
  • Restaurant servers
  • Hospitality workers
  • Pharmacy technicians
  • Postal workers
  • Library staff
  • Parking attendants 
  • Car Rental agents

Be aware of potential BPA exposure sources so you can make educated decisions to avoid them. Read on for more tips for protecting yourself from BPA while at work.

How Can Cashiers Reduce BPA Exposure

Protect your hands, protect your health. One study found that cashiers had 134% higher levels of BPA in their urine when compared to controls [6]. This is alarming. 

While it’s important to reduce our BPA exposures, these healthy changes shouldn’t be done at the sake of your mental health or financial stability. Going to work is a part of life, and each occupation has unique hazards that we must be aware of. When it comes to customer service, handling receipts is almost inevitable. 

Here are some tips for limiting your exposure to BPA while you’re working hard for the money:

  • Wear gloves or food-grade silicone tips while working 
  • Don’t handle receipts after applying lotion or sanitizer
  • Don’t place hands in mouth or eyes after handling receipts
  • Wash hands often with soap and water, especially before lunch breaks
  • Talk to your supervisor about ordering receipts with BPA alternatives 

Let’s limit BPA exposures together! Consider folding the receipt before handing it to customers with the text or images facing one another. Thermal paper designed for single-sided printing typically has a higher concentration of chemicals on the side meant for printing. By folding it into itself, you limit the amount of chemicals spread on your hands and your customer’s. 

If you work with hot food, don't put the receipt directly on the food or its container. If it touches the food, the chemicals can contaminate what the customer is eating. If the receipt sits on a hot take-out container, it can increase the risk of transferring chemicals to whoever handles that receipt. 

How to Reduce BPA Exposure to Cashiers as a Supervisor

As a supervisor or member of management, you are an instrumental member of the team. Use your powers for good. Advocate for healthier working environments by taking some of these steps toward eliminating the use of BPA receipts in your establishment. 

First, ask the customers if they want a receipt. Many don’t. In many establishments, transactions are saved on a server. So, if a customer needs a receipt within a certain time frame, it could be printed at a later date.

Some POS systems can be programmed to only print receipts when transactions are a certain amount, such as $25 or $50. 

Many merchant copies of receipts for transactions are unnecessary as there is an electronic backup on the server. Consider eliminating merchant copies from your checkout procedures. 

Lastly, consider ordering bisphenol-free or phenol-free thermal paper. With rising concerns over BPA, more companies are producing receipts using natural materials. Healthier coatings on receipts contain ascorbic acid (Vitamin C) or Pergafast 201, made from urea. 

Make healthy living a part of the company culture from the top down. Every little bit counts in reducing harmful chemical exposures. Consider integrating these tips into your work processes to minimize BPA exposures for employees. Remember, healthier employees equate to long term cost-savings for the company.

How to Avoid BPA in Receipts While Shopping

Smart shopping isn’t just about racking up savings. It’s about making educated decisions throughout the entire experience, including post-transaction. 

When possible, ask for no receipt. Many establishments will also provide you with a paperless receipt by inputting your email address. 

Never hand receipts to babies or young children. They have a tendency to stick these items in their mouths. Plus, these chemicals are dangerous in small doses, making their bodies especially vulnerable to BPA effects. 

Lastly, be careful when throwing the receipt to the bottom of your bag, or putting it in your wallet. BPA can rub off onto items, too. 

Therefore, everything in your bag can become contaminated with this endocrine-disrupting chemical!  

If you must hold onto receipts, consider keeping an envelope in your bag to place them for safekeeping. This will contain the harmful chemicals in a designated area, keeping other items in your bag free from contamination. 

How to Test BPA In My Body

BPA is a stealthy chemical found in many everyday items we often take for granted. From plastic containers and water bottles to the linings of canned foods and thermal paper used for receipts.

Its presence in these common products means that exposure can happen throughout the day, often without us realizing it. Understanding where BPA hides empowers us to make smarter choices and reduce our contact with this potentially harmful substance.

The risks associated with BPA arise from its ability to disrupt our endocrine system, even at small doses. Given these potential dangers, it’s crucial to proactively limit our exposure by choosing bisphenol-free products, opting for fresh or frozen foods over canned ones, and favoring digital receipts.

To take control of your health, consider testing your exposure to BPA and other bisphenols with Million Marker’s Detect & Detox Test Kit. This mail-in urine test not only provides insights into your BPA levels but also offers personalized recommendations to help you reduce your exposure to harmful chemicals. By taking these actionable steps, you can protect yourself and your loved ones from the hidden dangers of BPA.


[1] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0303720798000847
[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8230545/ 
[3] https://www.safetyandhealthmagazine.com/articles/18042-receipt-handling-may-boost-cashiers-exposure-to-hormone-disrupting-chemicals-study 
[4] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0039128X21000386 
[5] https://enveurope.springeropen.com/articles/10.1186/s12302-021-00586-9 
[6] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4927604/