[Pharmwaste] Synthetic estrogen BPA coats cash register receipts
DeBiasi, Deborah (DEQ)
Deborah.DeBiasi at deq.virginia.gov
Tue Jul 27 10:49:18 EDT 2010
Disputed chemical bisphenol-A found in paper receipts
By Lyndsey Layton
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, July 27, 2010; A13
As lawmakers and health experts wrestle over whether a controversial
chemical, bisphenol-A, should be banned from food and beverage
containers, a new analysis by an environmental group suggests Americans
are being exposed to BPA through another, surprising route: paper
The Environmental Working Group found BPA on 40 percent of the receipts
it collected from supermarkets, automated teller machines, gas stations
and chain stores. In some cases, the total amount of BPA on the receipt
was 1,000 times the amount found in the epoxy lining of a can of food,
another controversial use of the chemical.
Sonya Lunder, a senior analyst with the environmental group, says BPA's
prevalence on receipts could help explain why the chemical can be
detected in the urine of an estimated 93 percent of Americans, according
to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"We've come across potentially major sources of BPA right here in our
daily lives," Lunder said. "When you're carrying around a receipt in
your wallet for months while you intend to return something, you could
be shedding BPA into your home, into your environment. If you throw a
receipt into a bag of food, and it's lying there against an apple, or
you shove a receipt into your bag next to a baby pacifier, you could be
getting all kinds of exposure and not realize it."
What remains unknown is how much of the chemical that may rub off onto
the hands is absorbed through the skin or whether people then ingest BPA
by handling food or touching their mouths.
Among those surveyed, receipts from Safeway supermarkets contained the
highest concentration of BPA. A receipt taken from a store in the
District contained 41 milligrams of the chemical. If the equivalent
amount of BPA was ingested by a 155-pound adult, that would exceed EPA's
decades-old safe exposure limit for BPA by 12 times.
Brian Dowling, a Safeway spokesman, said the company is researching the
issue and consulting with its suppliers of receipt paper.
First synthesized in 1891 and developed in the 1930s as a synthetic form
of estrogen, bisphenol-A has been widely used in commercial products
including plastic bottles, compact discs and dental sealants. While it
was regarded as safe for decades, recent research using sophisticated
analytic techniques suggests that low doses of the compound can
interfere with the endocrine system and cause a range of health effects,
including reproductive problems and cancer.
Federal regulators have been focused on BPA and whether it leaches from
containers into foods and beverages at levels that may cause health
problems. Earlier this year, the Food and Drug Administration expressed
"some concern" about BPA and joined several agencies in conducting $30
million in studies to try to answer questions about its safety.
Lawmakers on the local, state and federal levels have moved to ban BPA
from food and beverage containers made for infants and children.
The American Chemistry Council, which represents the chemical industry,
said that while BPA can transfer from paper receipts to the skin, the
level of absorption is low. "Available data suggests that BPA is not
readily absorbed through the skin," a spokeswoman said. "Biomonitoring
data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control shows that exposure to
BPA from all sources, which would include typical exposure from
receipts, is extremely low."
The Environmental Protection Agency, however, recognizing that paper
coated in BPA may be a significant route of exposure, launched an effort
this month to work with paper manufacturers, the chemical industry and
environmental groups to encourage companies to find alternatives to BPA
Appleton Papers, the nation's largest manufacturer of "thermal papers,"
the type often used for receipts, dropped BPA from its formulation in
2006 out of growing concerns about the safety of the chemical, said Kent
Willetts, the company's vice president of strategic development. "We
just realized we'd rather move away from it sooner than later," Willetts
The Environmental Working Group's report, with more detail and test
results, can be found at:
Deborah L. DeBiasi
Email: Deborah.DeBiasi at deq.virginia.gov (NEW!)
WEB site address: www.deq.virginia.gov
Virginia Department of Environmental Quality
Office of Water Permit and Compliance Assistance Programs
Industrial Pretreatment/Whole Effluent Toxicity (WET) Program
PPCPs, EDCs, and Microconstituents
Mail: P.O. Box 1105, Richmond, VA 23218
Location: 629 E. Main Street, Richmond, VA 23219
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