A new analysis by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) suggests that many Americans are at risk of exposure to a dangerous chemical that has been found in baby bottles, the lining of food and beverage containers, and now paper receipts. Significant levels of bisphenol-A (BPA), a controversial chemical that is not currently regulated by the Food and Drug Administration or the Environmental Protection Agency, was found in 40 percent of paper receipts collected from major retailers, grocery stores, convenience stores, gas stations, fast-food restaurants, post offices and ATMs.
Exposure to BPA has been linked to developmental disorder, cancer, heart diseases, and other health problems. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that nearly all Americans have some level of BPA in their bodies. The recent finding that there are high levels of BPA in receipts from stores that most Americans visit regularly could provide an insight as to why exposure is so widespread. BPA is already known to leach into food and beverage products through packaging, but EWG’s study found that BPA can easily rub off paper receipts onto hands and food. The Washington Post spoke with Sonya Lunder, a senior analyst with EWG:
"We’ve come across potentially major sources of BPA right here in our daily lives," Lunder said. "When you’re carrying around a receipt in your wallet for months while you intend to return something, you could be shedding BPA into your home, into your environment. If you throw a receipt into a bag of food, and it’s lying there against an apple, or you shove a receipt into your bag next to a baby pacifier, you could be getting all kinds of exposure and not realize it."
So why is BPA flying under the radar of the agencies that have been entrusted to protect public health? In January, FDA announced the results of a scientific evaluation of BPA and found that there is “reason for some concern about the potential effects of BPA on the brain, behavior, and prostate gland of fetuses, infants and children.” But instead of laying out a regulatory path for protecting consumers from exposure to BPA, FDA merely stated that it “recognizes substantial uncertainties with respect to the overall interpretation of these studies and their potential implications for human health effects of BPA exposure.”
Many consumer advocacy groups found this non-conclusion unsatisfactory, and on June 28, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) sued FDA in an effort to force the agency to set safety standards for BPA in food. On March 29, EPA announced that it would add BPA to its list of “chemicals of concern,” pledging to look more closely at BPA’s potential health impacts. While both these developments provide some hope that BPA will soon be regulated on a federal level, many state and local governments have taken public safety into their own hands through legislative bans on the chemical.