Thermal Labels

Is Bisphenol A (BPA) on Thermal Paper A Health Risk?

Is Bisphenol A on Thermal Paper A Health Risk?

If you have not heard of the chemical BPA in cash register receipts and credit/debit machines that may pose a health threat, then you may want to know some facts. New research shows that this chemical, known endocrine disruptor, can be absorbed through the skin.

BPA has been banned from use in baby bottles and sippy cups. Several manufacturers have also removed it from water bottles and food containers. However, the thermal paper used in cash registers and other receipts is another common source of BPA. Handling the paper will lead to an increase in the level of chemicals in our body because it rubs off easily.

Research has linked BPA to an increased risk of breast cancer, cardiovascular disease, and abnormal reproduction and brain development. Because it imitates the biological activity of estrogen, developing children face the highest risks of BPA.

A chronically high level of estrogen can disrupt the reproductive and endocrine systems of men and women. High levels are associated with changes in thyroid function, diabetes, obesity, heart disease, liver and kidney failure, inflammation, hyperactivity, and learning disabilities. In men, this level is associated with decreased libido, lower sperm quality, and changes in the concentration of sex hormones. In women, these levels are related to reproductive effects, such as polycystic ovary syndrome, infertility, miscarriage, premature delivery, and increased risk of breast cancer. Women may be particularly vulnerable to the BPA in receipts.

Even if you are not a cashier, you may be exposed to more BPA than you think because the thermal paper is used in many of the receipts we process, from airline boarding passes and luggage tags to trains and movies, sporting events and amusement parks tickets, and even labels on prescription bottles or packaged cold cuts or cheeses.

Here is a quick test to determine if the paper you are working with is a thermal type that contains BPA: scratch the printing surface of the paper. If you see a black mark, the paper is thermal.

Although some manufacturers produce “BPA-free” thermal paper, they often use similar chemicals (BPS), which can also cause health risks similar to BPA. Both are easily transferred to the skin. These bisphenols are easily absorbed by the skin because the skin molecules are smaller than estradiol, a natural estrogen, which is sometimes delivered through skin patches.

So what should you do to reduce your exposure?

Here are some tips on how to reduce exposure to BPA:

  • Please note that thermal paper easily discolors when scratched with coins or paper clips. 
  • Do not accept receipts whenever possible.
  • Choose paperless receipts via email or SMS. This is an increasing available choice at many retailers.
  • If you must handle a receipt, try to touch only the nonglossy backside as it contains much less BPA.
  • Immediately wash your hands after touching a receipt. Cleanse with soap and water.
  • If your job requires frequent receipt processing, please wear latex gloves.
  • Do not use a hand sanitiser after touching a possible thermal receipt.

Bisphenol A in the thermal paper is now banned throughout the EU.

The BPA in thermal paper in a concentration of 0.02% and above has been banned from the market since the beginning of the year 2020. This means that the European Union Regulation 2016/2235 published by the EU in December 2016 applies. The maximum concentration of 0.02% is granted because this residual concentration inevitably remains when the paper is recycled.

This regulation mainly affects retailers. Since the obligation to issue receipts takes effect this year, you must provide each customer with a receipt in digital or paper format. From now on, this paper should not contain BPA.

In the past, BPA was used to coat receipt rolls due to its heat resistance thermally. That is over now. The law on which the prohibition is based was passed in 2016, and BPA is included in the list of prohibited substances in Annex XVII of REACH.

Only in July of the year 2019, after a lawsuit was filed in the plastics industry, an EU court confirmed that BPA was correctly classified as toxic for reproduction because it disturbs the hormonal balance and reduces fertility. Due to its toxicity to reproduction, ECHA included the substance on the List of Candidate Substances of Very High Concern (SVHC) in 2017.

In October 2019, ECHA proposed adding BPA to Annex XIV of the REACH Regulation, the list of substances subject to authorisation.

The production of bisphenol A is 3.8 million tons, which is one of the most widely used chemicals in the world. In addition to the current ban on receipts, the substance is also included in various products, such as beverage bottles, cans, and food packaging. 

According to recent research results, bisphenol S, which is used as a substitute, is said to be at least as harmful.

Read our blog on Thermal Paper: An Overview