NSC Labor Division news Research/studies Wholesale and retail trade Workplace exposures

Receipt paper may expose retail workers to hazardous chemicals


Photo: supersizer/iStockphoto

Ann Arbor, MI — Most paper receipts at large retailers contain chemicals with possible links to hormone disruption and other adverse health effects, results of a recent study show.

Researchers at the Ecology Center, a nonprofit environmental advocacy group, analyzed 374 receipts from 144 chain retailers in 22 states and the District of Columbia. The receipts came from grocery stores, restaurants, big box and department stores, drugstores, gas stations and convenience stores, and home improvement stores.

Findings show that bisphenol S – which has been found to disrupt hormones, according to the study – was present in about 80% of the receipts, down from 84% in a similar study conducted in 2017. Levels of bisphenol A – which past research has linked to breast and prostate cancer in adults – was present in 1% of the receipts, down from 9% in 2017.

“Fast-food and fast-casual restaurant workers often handle hundreds of receipts during each shift, which means that potential exposure to endocrine-disrupting BPS or BPA is constant,” Autumn Weintraub, director of the fast food campaign at Service Employees International Union Local 32BJ, said in a press release. “Working conditions mean that employees may have moist or greasy fingers, or may frequently use hand sanitizer, all of which could greatly increase their exposure.

“Retailers have a responsibility to keep their workers safe while on the job. That includes keeping workers safe from harmful chemicals.”

The researchers charted progress in that area, finding safer chemical alternatives in 20% of the receipts, compared with 2% in 2017.

The researchers recommend workers:

  • Request disposable, non-vinyl gloves, if possible.
  • Fold receipts with the printed side facing in; the backs of receipts often aren’t coated with bisphenols.
  • Wash and dry hands before eating and after changing receipt rolls.
  • Avoid handling receipts after using hand sanitizer or when hands are wet.
  • Keep drink and meal receipts dry, and avoid placing them on the sides of moist containers or directly on food.

And employers:

  • Offer customers the option of skipping a paper receipt, providing digital receipts instead.
  • Switch to less hazardous, non-bisphenol replacement paper.

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