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80% of receipts at major store chains contain "toxic" chemicals, report says

The majority of receipts at the nation's biggest store and restaurant chains contain "toxic chemicals" such as bisphenol A, or BPA, according to new research.  

About 80% of receipts from 144 major chain stores in 22 U.S. states and Washington, D.C., contained bisphenols, the analysis from the Ecology Center, a nonprofit environmental health organization. BPA, a chemical used in the production of polycarbonate plastics, as well as bisphenol S, or BPS, were detected on receipts from retailers such as Walmart and restaurants including McDonald's, the study found. 

"Receipts are a common exposure route for hormone-disrupting bisphenols which readily absorb through the skin. Our studies show most retailers use bisphenol-coated receipt paper," Melissa Cooper Sargent, environmental health advocate at the Ecology Center, said in a statement. "Switching to non-toxic paper is an easy shift."

Health risks unclear

BPA is known to affect the reproductive systems of laboratory animals, but the impact on human health requires more research, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The chemical has been found in the urine of almost all people who were tested by the CDC, with the agency noting that this indicates "widespread exposure to BPA" among Americans. 

Some retailers have pledged to switch to receipt paper that is made without the chemicals, with Walgreens earlier this month announcing that it plans to switch to phenol-free paper receipts — paper made without phenol-based chemicals like BPA or BPS — at its 9,000 locations by the end of 2023.

Walmart and McDonald's didn't immediately respond to requests for comment. 

The study noted that the share of retailers and other chains that are using receipts that contain BPA or BPS has declined since it last tested for the chemicals, decreasing from 93% in 2017 to 80% now. 

Some retailers' receipts didn't include the chemicals in the latest round of testing, including those used at Best Buy, Costco, Culver's, CVS, H&M, Starbucks and Target, among others. 

Don't ask for a receipt, if possible

The Ecology Center recommends that consumers decline printed receipts when possible, or wash their hands after taking a receipt. It also said shoppers can fold the receipt with the printed side in, since the backside of the paper typically isn't coated with the chemicals. 

It also recommended that babies and children should not touch receipts. 

Workers should wear disposable gloves while handling receipts, and wash and dry their hands before eating or changing the receipt rolls, the group recommended. 

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