Anti-Inflammatory Diet

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Monday, December 7, 2009

BPA in Thermal Printer Ink

Bisphenol A Free Bottles, BPA-Free Pacifiers, BPA-Free Receipts

I previously poo-pooed the threat of the estrogen mimetic bisphenol A (BPA) from polycarbonate bottles, cans and pacifiers, because my quick calculations indicated that there was just too little BPA and too many other natural sources of estrogens that haven’t been problems.  But it’s not the water that’s the problem, it’s the other plastic, your credit card.

Some Receipts Are Covered with BPA

In a recent article on the use of BPA for thermal printing it was claimed that some receipts have as much as 100 milligrams of BPA.  I simply didn’t believe this, because 100mg is 0.1 gram, which is what I approximate as the weight of a cash register receipt.  So, I emailed the investigator and he clarified.  He encountered some coupons that were printed on 100 sqare inches of thermal printer paper.  That is one whopping receipt, but even at that size, the coating with BPA was impressive and scary.

Thermal Printing Heats BPA with Second Reagent to Make Pigments

Thermal printing ink, e.g. BPA plus an acid-sensitive dye, smeared over the whole surface of the special thermal paper.  Heating the paper in the printer head causes the BPA, which is a weak acid, to release its protons and react with the dye to produce a colored pigment.  In order to make the printing visible, a lot of initially colorless ink has to be coated on the paper.  That means that perhaps 5% of the weight of the thermal printer paper is BPA and that BPA is all on the surface and able to rub off onto your hands!

Don’t Touch the Receipts

A recent study of BPA exposure during gestation and subsequent stereotypical sex-specific behavior showed that women with higher BPA in their urine during their first trimester of pregnancy gave birth to babies that developed with less than their expected sex-specific behaviors.  In other words, higher BPA in utero meant that boys behaved more like girls and vice versa.  Most of the women tested had about 1 ppm BPA contaminating their urine.  Some had a thousand fold more.  Even if they ate polycarbonate bottles, they could not have had more than 1,000 ppm (1 ppm = one part per million = 1 microgram per gram = 1 milligram per liter, so 1,000 ppm = 1 gram per liter).  This suggests that the women with funny, really average kids, were getting their BPA from some other source than bottles and cans contaminated with BPA.

Wash Your Hands or Wear Gloves When Shopping

I think that the culprit is the cashier.  Why are some of these people so cheerful when they have to deal with so many louts in line?  Maybe it is the BPA soaking into their finger tips from the BPA-soaked receipts that they are handing to you.  You may have wondered why some people become fanatical about coupons.  Maybe they are also taking in too much BPA.  What about the kids playing with credit card receipts?  BPA has been linked with precocious sexual development.  Maybe it would be safer to let the kids play with cigarette butts.

Not All Receipts Have BPA

I have asked a few cashiers if their receipts are printed on thermal paper laced with BPA, but most don’t know or care.  Many receipts are printed with ink, so they aren’t a problem.  Either way, the cashier should know to avoid self-contamination or risks to customers.  May you should ask the next time you hand over the plastic.

19 comments: said...

Is this April 1st already? Did you accidentally release this blog post a few months early?

Tobias said...


Nigel Kinbrum said...

I must get out of the habit of using my mouth as a 3rd hand for temporarily holding receipts when shopping.

Byron said...

Dear Dr. Ayers,
such surprising, funny and still well-structured thoughts (as always)!

frost said...

This topic was covered in one of his papers at Be sure and check out the green box in the lower right of the main blog page for links to the articles.

Denise said...

Ok, so I'm a cashier. How do I find out if the thermal paper my cash register uses is coated with BPA? There isn't exactly a list of ingredients on the box. Then, how do I find paper that is not coated with BPA so I can convince the company I work for to switch? I have no idea where to find this information and although I followed the links listed, they did not provide any help about where to go with this.

Thank you for helping (and my customers and fellow cashiers thank you, too).

Dr. Art Ayers said...

I don't know of a simple test for BPA. The easiest way to determine if there is BPA in the thermal paper that you use in your printers is to contact the manufacturer and ask.

Thanks for the comments.

Helen said...

That is so weird! Just today, one of my toddlers was playing with a cash register receipt. I've never seen her do that before and I'll never let her do it again. I'd never have thought about it if I hadn't semi-randomly surfed on over and read this post.

Anonymous said...

So after hearing about register tape causing cancer, because it contains BPA, and reading articles. I contacted our supplier, RiteMade. They then sent me an e-mail by President and CEO Stephen Schwartz, where is underlines that "We firmly believe that thermal paper is safe." and "numerous scientific studies have shown this is not an issue with BPA." For some reason, I find their letter hard to believe, I think they most likely just have their own best interests in mind...As a pregant woman, I plan to wash my hands thoroughly after handling reciepts, and to try to avoid touching them as much as possible! To read the whole article, go to under about us, click news, and scroll down to "CEO, letter addressing thermal paper safety" Let me know what you think...Wash your hands!

Dr. Art Ayers said...

That letter from the thermal paper industry clarifies a few things. First, BPA is present in all thermal paper. Second, the industry claims that BPA is harmless based on the fact that it has not been found to be harmful by federal panels. Third, they deny the existence of studies that clearly show the BPA is a problem for exposure in utero.

I think that it is the responsibility of the reading public to warn cashiers, pregnant women and caretakers of small children to avoid contact with receipts. Hopefully a good outcome of the H1N1 flu vaccine marketing is increased hand washing.

Thanks for your comments.

Anonymous said...

Recently there has been a lot in the news about BPA and thermal paper. Liberty Paper Products in Phoenix AZ sells BPA free thermal receipts which they produce in Arizona. The paper comes from Appleton Papers in WI which has been BPA free for several years. Liberty can be reached at 800-528-6720 and is launching a website for information this month called

Anonymous said...

Recently there has been a lot in the news about BPA and thermal paper. Liberty Paper Products in Phoenix AZ sells BPA free thermal receipts which they produce in Arizona. The paper comes from Appleton Papers in WI which has been BPA free for several years. Liberty can be reached at 800-528-6720 and is launching a website for information this month called

Anonymous said... is not active

Vickie said...

Why is it the cashier's responsibility to inform the customer? If anything it's the responsibility if the store managers and other corporate heads to keep their cashiers and the public safe.
Okay, so assume I'm a cashier and I've read this and I've verified the information. I start wearing gloves and I cease handing out receipts to customers. Customers are going to be 1. Freaked that you're wearing "protection". 2. Upset that they didn't get a receipt.
They will either demand why and when I explain why, they then very likely decide to shop elsewhere (that would be the stores biggest concern). Or they will either quietly or not so quietly complain to my manager that they didn't get a receipt.

Bottom line a cashier risks losing his/her job over it and who can afford that? Most often a cashier is a mother trying to make ends meet. You honestly think she's just going to take it upon herself to save the public? What any sane person would do is take the information to their manager and when its ignored they would then start looking for a safer job.
That's my only complaint about your article. :-)

Unknown said...

You are thinking in small terms. Do not underestimate the power of word-of-mouth and people making small changes. Just bringing a complaint can push forward change.

For example Thomas's muffins now offer whole grain muffin with the "high-fructose-mercury-syrup" and "enriched give-you-diabetes and no-vitamins flour" removed.

Word of mouth spread that study that showed 50% of the HFCS has high levels of mercury and causes obesity, and articles explaining that enriched flour is a joke and harmful.

Same with the asparatame (phenylketonurics: contains phenylalanine). Most people are slowly realizing this is a sweet bio-weapon designed to kill you. Most people don't want it once they know it is bacteria poop from a genetically modified e. coli bacteria that lives in your intestines. That and the rubbing alcohol that makes you go blind. So that is a real incentive not to chew gum. And you thought it was masturbation that did that, lol.

Bottom line is corporations fund eugenics operations. mercury, GMO, MSG, HFCS. Remember eugenics is that Rockafeller idea that Hitler put into practice. Corporations have found a way to continue the work of Hitler but by stealth.

Unknown said...

oh and do a google search for "lindsay lohan poisoned" and watch a video that gets into all this stuff and psych-meds and vaccine and other poisons. said...

An old cash register and credit card receipts can be a rich source of BPA. Maybe, there are still a few of these. However, for some models, most especially the branded ones, receipts have no more BPA. This is because they are specially designed for the environment; using eco-friendly ink and paper.

Rudkav said...

Thanks for sharing information regarding thermal paper rolls.

Niraj Rajput said...

DIC India a leading liquid inks producer of printing inks, coatings and supplies, pigments, polymers and liquid compounds. DIC India is focusing on upgrading their manufacturing plants in India leveraging their global network.