US grocery chain Trader Joe's has committed to sourcing receipt paper free of bisphenol A (BPA) and bisphenol S (BPS), following an NGO report.
The Ecology Center study, More than you bargained for: BPS and BPA in receipts, tested 167 paper receipts from 148 businesses including retailers, restaurants, banks and libraries.
It found BPS in 75% of the analysed receipts and BPA in 18%. Three percent of samples were inconclusive, 2% had no coating and 1% used the alternative Pergafast 201 which is free of phenol chemicals.
BPA and BPS are used as photographic developers, which are coated on thermal paper for printing receipts, but there is concern the substances are hormone-disrupting and easily absorbed into the bloodstream through skin.
According to the report, cashiers and other employees can handle up to 30 receipts an hour, causing their urinary and blood levels of these chemicals to rise "significantly higher" than in the general population.
The Ecology Center wrote to Trader Joe’s before the report’s publication yesterday, to inform it that BPS had been found in receipts from its stores.
The retailer responded with an announcement on its website from its vice president of marketing, Matt Sloan. It said that: "We are now pursuing receipt paper that is free of phenol chemicals (including BPA and BPS), which we will be rolling out to all stores as soon as possible."
In the recent Mind the Store retailer report card – a campaign run by the NGO Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families (SCHF) – Trader Joe’s scored 0 out of 135 possible points on its actions to eliminate chemicals.
Mike Schade of SCHF told Chemical Watch the store's latest announcement was good news and "underscores the need for other top retailers to step up and remove BPS and BPA from receipts".
Ecology Center researchers concluded that BPS has replaced BPA as the developer chemical in many thermal paper receipts in the US, despite having a similar toxicity profile.
Senior scientist, Gillian Miller, said: "Our research shows a shift in the marketplace toward BPS as manufacturers respond to consumer pressure and move away from BPA, a hormone disruptor with negative effects on foetal development and reproductive health."
However, their chemical similarity suggests similar routes of human exposure.
Mr Schade said: "It's a classic case of regrettable substitution. This is of great concern as cashiers can handle ... hundreds of receipts during a work shift. BPA and BPS are not chemically bound to the receipt and are absorbed through the skin, entering the bloodstream in minutes."
The Ecology Center's report contrasts with a recent Echa survey, which concluded that manufacturers of thermal paper in the EU have not greatly increased their use of BPS as an alternative to BPA, which faces a restriction from January 2020.
The NGO is calling on businesses to switch to less hazardous alternatives, recommended by the US EPA. It also suggests that businesses give consumers the option of skipping paper receipts.