Receipts Have BPA?! Here’s What We Learned…

When we recently heard that some receipts can release a lot more BPA than any plastic bottle on the market we had to know more. And while this subject might not be inherently DIY related, it can certainly factor into having a safe and happy home- especially on Earth Day. Plus we’re all about simplifying our lives (it was even my 2010 resolution) so the solution that we reached after reading up on this topic actually contributes to less daily clutter and chaos, which is always a good thing. Who doesn’t want to have a more organized wallet, purse, and home?

Here’s the gist. Science News recently reported that some receipts are made with a technology that leaves them covered in the powdered form of BPA (which can much more easily get onto your hands and be spread around/ingested). This is particularly interesting when you consider that the much less spreadable form (and much smaller quantities) of BPA found in water bottles, old Nalgene containers, tupperware, and even baby bottles are all over the news and have many people reaching for BPA-free options these days. As a point of comparison, plastic bottles can leech “nanogram quantities of BPA” while the average BPA-laden receipt will have “60 to 100 milligrams of it” (yup, that’s way more) – all of which are loose and ready to be spread around (unlike a bottle which usually needs to be heated or aged to release them). Who’s dying to wash their hands? I was when I got about this far into the article.

Although some people are still skeptical about the true dangers of BPA (we’re still trying to wrap our minds around it), it’s been flagged as an “endocrine disruptor” by the Centers for Disease Control, and studies have linked it to breast cancer, obesity, attention deficit disorder and abnormal hormonal and genital development in infants. Even the Food & Drug Administration believes there is “reason for some concern” over the chemical’s effects on fetuses and children and Dr. Robert Lawrence of Johns Hopkins School of Public Health has said “I would avoid it- enough research suggests there are risks.” The unfortunate thing about the whole receipt debacle is that the BPA laced receipts don’t look any different than non-BPA ones. Que the womp womp sound effect.

Our BPA approach is pretty much an “it can’t hurt to be better safe than sorry” mindset. We try not to drive ourselves crazy but we’ve done our best to limit our exposure by doing simple things like switching out plastic tupperware for glass containers and drinking filtered tap water from a stainless steel Klean Kanteen instead of a plastic bottle. We even registered for some cute glass Weego bottles for the bean. But the whole receipt revelation really got us thinking. Here we were assuming that BPA wasn’t an issue for us anymore and we were probably touching (and eating it) on a near-daily basis. Plus thinking about how many times we washed our hands before ordering food and then ended up touching the receipt before sitting down to eat had us a bit grossed out. Especially since I’m carrying what we like to refer to as “precious cargo” these days. There’s nothing like the self-induced paranoia of a pregnant lady, I tell ya.

But the good news is that our “answer” to this new knowledge was pretty simple. Whenever possible we now ask the cashier to toss the receipt for us. That way it never ends up in our hands, my purse, John’s wallet, and ultimately our house. After all, I’d estimate that nearly 80% of all the receipts that we’re offered on a daily basis aren’t necessary since we’re purchasing things that we know we’ll never return (food, gas, office supplies, etc). Plus if you usually use receipts as records of your business write offs, it’s nice to note that if you use your credit card for those purchases they’ll show up in your statement (so you might not even need those slips of paper clogging up your files and folders after all).

Sure there are definitely still certain purchases that you may return (you don’t want to end up with a house full of stuff you hate out of fear of touching receipts) but so many stores like Home Depot and Target can now look up any purchases that you’ve made on the credit card that you used… so no receipt is necessary anymore, as long as you don’t pay cash. Really, we haven’t used a receipt to return anything from Target or Home Depot in months- it’s so convenient. Plus by using a credit card (which we pay off in full each month) we earn more points and keep things a lot more organized and itemized for future records than the old wad of paper slips in my purse ever did. And when it comes to the receipts that you just can’t avoid touching, you can at least store them in a closed container (like one of those plastic accordion file things) either in your purse or at home. Then just wash your hands after you handle them- in case they’re of the BPA variety.

Taking it a step further, wouldn’t it be great if “opting out” of a receipt became more of a common practice in the future? Talk about all the paper waste that could be eliminated. Our ATM actually asks if we want a receipt and we always decline. It just makes us happy that we’ve been given the choice to save one little slip of paper from being generated on our behalf (and my purse is a lot cleaner since I started that practice). Plus the fact that our bank already serves up this option makes us hopeful that more stores will adopt it as well (they’d save money too!) and someday receipts in general might just be a thing of the past. Wouldn’t life be so much more organized without all those little white slips of paper? Gotta love something as simple as going sans receipt. Especially when it may even have a positive effect on your health and can painlessly cut down on purse clutter and household waste at the same time.

So what do you guys think? Do you feel like donning plastic gloves and going through your wallet or purse like it’s full of toxic waste? Please don’t! We try not to get too carried away with these things so just remember that hand washing can’t hurt and leaving receipts at the store is a pretty easy fix for the most part. And on the subject of a healthy and happy home, what are you doing these days to keep things simple and safe around your casa? Any babyproofing going on? Any no-VOC paints getting taken for a test ride? Any cookies being put on the highest shelf in the kitchen so you can’t reach them while John’s at work and eat them all (nope, not talking from personal experience here).

Update: The Washington Post later wrote an article on this very subject. Check it out here.


  1. says

    OMG, Sher – totally paranoid over here now! Ha ha!

    Actually, I am on a mission to be more green by the end of 2010! My first step is researching cleaning supplies. Then it’s beauty supplies, and then who knows…?

    Happy Earth Day, everyone! Love our home – it’s the only one we’ve got!


  2. kelly says

    that is crazy, what about the poor sales people, all day long touching chemicals that could make them sick! i try and decline a receipt when i can, costco gas also does that but i surely touch enough of them!

  3. says

    I hadn’t heard about receipts and BPA, so thank you very much for this information. I need to look into this issue more. I’ve been using a BPA-free water bottle for a few years, but I wasn’t sure what the dangers might be.

    what do you do if you have to sign a receipt? Do you think you’ll be concerned about touching it?

    • says

      Hey Godless Girl,

      I guess just try not to touch them if you can and if you must just wash your hands. We try not to get too crazy about it, but just knowing to cut down contact and wash hands after handling them makes us feel better.


  4. April in CT says

    Ohhh, cookies… Sorry, I’m easily sidetracked.

    I had NO idea about this one! Very interesting and I’m glad you posted about it so I can read more about it. We definitely try to cut out certain things now that BPA information is so out there now. Absolutely, better to be safe than sorry. I still use plastic containers for food storage, but only put cooled food in them and never use in the microwave. I would like to replace them with glass at some point and keep looking for the perfect replacements (I’m pretty picky). My hubby uses the Klean Kanteen (he’s nuts about it!) and I use my Camelback BPA free and recently got one from them that is stainless insulated that rocks. When we own our home again low or no VOC paints will be used. My hubs is in the Coast Guard and has made certain these are the only types of paint purchased now in his dept. when any painting is required. Make changes where you can, it’s so easy!

  5. Jenny says

    Wow! Thanks for letting us know! I think you are right about places starting to go receipt free. I know that Starbucks always asks if you want your receipt or not and so does the Costco gas station. Hmm… definitely something to think about!

  6. Jill says

    Very interesting. I own a small boutique and obviously come in contact with receipts everyday. I’m going to need to do a little research to see where my paper sits on the BPA scale, and see if there are any alternatives. Thanks for the heads-up.

  7. Mel says

    I’m not so sure about this idea. Receipts are important for several reasons.

    – They solemnize the transaction between you and the store.
    – If you itemize your taxes, the receipts serve as proof for purposes of writing off the sales tax portion of the sale.
    – Returns.
    – And perhaps the most important, they keep retailers accountable because without them, are you sure you are paying the right price for things? Are you sure you are not being double charged? Are you sure you are being charged for only the items you purchased?

    I think the better solution here is to encourage retailers to use safer paper.

    Love your blog.

  8. Alissa H. says

    That’s not going to work for me, I’m a couponer and like to save my receipts for rebates. I guess I’ll just try to wash my hands after shopping.

  9. dani says

    I have actually heard that those coupons they give you at the grocery store when they hand you your receipt have the most BPA. I avoid those like the plague! I actually avoid most receipts anyway since I hate clutter, but wasn’t aware that BPA is potentially so prevelant. Thanks for the tip, will pass it on!

  10. Corley says

    Just a little FYI: Target has made an attempt to lesson receipts at some registers (Food, Deli, etc) to cut back on useless paper and has also started an instore recycling center. Thought you should check that out next time you head that way.

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