Toxic Assets: Can You Guess What We Found on Money (and Receipts)?
By Meredith Salmi, Arc Greater Twin Cities
Have you ever had a sneaking suspicion that shopping was toxic? It turns out that shopping may not just wreak havoc on your wallet but also on your family’s health. A recent study released by Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families and the Washington Toxics Coalition found alarming rates of the chemical compound Bisphenol A (BPA) in both cash register receipts and dollar bills. Arc Greater Twin Cities, a member of the Healthy Legacy Coalition, believes that banning BPA is right on the money (pun intended).
BPA (yes, that same scrooge of a chemical that we’ve banned in baby bottles and sippy cups here in Minnesota) is used to make thermal paper for store receipts. The study tested 22 receipts from retail stores in multiple states (including Minnesota) and found BPA in half of those receipts—yikes! What’s more, the BPA used in the thermal paper is not chemically bound, meaning it can easily rub off onto skin and other objects. Thinking of switching to cash? Not so fast. The study also tested dollar bills and found BPA in 21 of the 22 dollars tested. The bottom line is that BPA is unavoidable during your trip to the store.
BPA is a pretty scary chemical, and unfortunately, it’s all over the place (produced in volumes to the tune of about six billion pounds per year worldwide). Known as an endocrine disruptor, it is a developmental, neural and reproductive toxicant that mimics estrogen in the body. Animal studies have shown it to cause significant damage to neurological, immune, and reproductive systems during critical stages of development, such as infancy and in the womb. In fact, BPA has been reported to disrupt thyroid hormone-regulated genes in rats; these thyroid hormones play a significant role in brain development and other growth in the fetus. Additionally, in mice, BPA has been found to induce the genetic defect that causes Down syndrome. Needless to say, it’s pretty toxic stuff.
At Arc Greater Twin Cities, we believe that families shouldn’t have to worry about the developmental repercussions of handling a store receipt. Arc is an organization that advocates for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families. We are committed to everyone having the opportunity to realize their goals of where they live, learn, work, and play.
However, where we live, learn, work, and play should be safe from toxins that cause developmental disabilities or exacerbate health issues for people with existing disabilities. Unfortunately, we’re not very safe.
What’s the solution? Since it’s impractical to switch to a bartering system here in the U.S. and avoid receipts and cash altogether, there’s a better suggestion: Reform the Toxic Substances Control Act.
Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families and Healthy Legacy are calling on Congress to reform how chemicals are regulated in the U.S. Any reform should:
- Require basic safety data, so chemicals like BPA don’t end up in consumer products like receipts.
- Take fast action on the worst chemicals, where there is evidence of harm to human health.
- Consider impacts from multiple exposures and multiple chemicals.
- Reward innovation that leads to new, safer chemicals.
In the meantime, this tip sheet provides some helpful hints for avoiding BPA.