Researchers warn that tickets should not get in contact with food -for example, meat or fish- while unpacking it in the kitchen; and we should not play with them, crumple them to throw them in the trash, write notes on them, or store them in cars, purses or handbags.
90 percent of purchase tickets and receipts, those whose ink is erased after some time because they are made of ‘thermal paper’, contain bisphenol A (BPA), a well known endocrine disruptor that alters hormonal balance in people exposed to it, and it leads to hormonal diseases such as genitourinary malformations, infertility, obesity and cancer in hormone-dependent organs (such as breast cancer).
That is the conclusion of a research led by the University of Granada (UGR), with the participation of the Instituto de Investigación Biosanitaria research institute (ibs. Granada), the Hospital Universitario San Cecilio university hospital (Granada), the National School of Public Health (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), the Université Paris Descartes university and the Hôpital Necker Enfants Malades hospital (Paris, France).
Currently, there is great concern about the unnoticed exposure of general population to bisphenol A. The industry has sought alternatives for gradually replacing BPA in most of its applications, as is the case of the thermal paper used in tickets and receipts.
“We can recognize this kind of paper because it instantly turns black if we put it close to a heat source like, for example, a match,” the lead authors of this study Nicolás Olea, professor of Medicine at the UGR, and José Manuel Molina from the ibs. Granada, explain. One of the alternatives is the use of bisphenol S (BPS), which has a molecular structure similar to that of BPA but introducing a sulfur atom (S) instead of a carbon atom (C) in its formula.
In their paper, published in the journal Environmental Research, the researchers analyze the presence of BPA and BPS in the thermal paper receipts we use on a daily basis, as well as the hormone-like activities of those receipts.
Study carried out on 112 tickets from Brazil, Spain and France
For that, they analyzed 112 thermal paper receipts and tickets from Brazil, Spain and France. “They are easily identified by the customer since they are those receipts that, after some time, lose what they have printed on them and, when you are going to return the trousers you bought, the cashiers tell you that they cannot see anything,” Olea explains. “Very often, the only thing you find is a fine white powder that comes off when taking them out of the handbag or purse. BPA is, precisely, that white powder that sticks to your fingers.”
In this research, led by the UGR, more than 90% of the receipts collected in Brazil and Spain had BPA and presented hormone-like, anti-androgenic activity.
However, only half of the receipts collected in France presented BPA, which confirms that the French Government took action to the reduction of the use of that chemical compound in thermal paper since 2014, with the aim of protecting the population.
“What’s bad about the French alternative is that it seems to use BPS, since we have found it mostly in samples from that country and seldom have we found it in Brazilian or Spanish samples. Unfortunately, BPS is also an endocrine disruptor, and its environmental persistence is greater than that of BPA, so it’s not a valid option,” the UGR professor emphasizes.
Still, the researchers fear an increase in its use in years to come, since its regulation is not as strict as that of BPA.
“It’s another evidence that something is failing in toxicity controls for chemical compounds in our environment. It seems like regulatory policies are established a posteriori, when human exposure is evident. In fact, the protection of hundreds of thousands of young people working as cashiers in supermarkets and other stores is not as strictly implemented as it should,” Nicolás Olea warns.
The researchers recommend the population to proceed with caution until the Spanish Government takes action or until stores, restaurants and other businesses acknowledge the problem.
“For example, tickets should not get in contact with food -for instance, meat or fish- while unpacking it in the kitchen. Moreover, we should not crumple the tickets to throw them in the trash, play with them, write notes on them, or store them in cars, purses or handbags,” Olea Says. “In short, we should manipulate this kind of tickets as little as possible.”
Until some measures with regard to what could be an important problem concerning public health are taken, “we should reject thermal paper receipts and demand that the substitution of BPA in thermal paper promised by the Spanish Government for 2020 is not carried out using BPS.”