Paper Receipts Can Be Hazardous to Your Health

Your customers probably already know many of the advantages of e-receipts. But here’s another selling point you can mention: Electronic receipts are BPA-free. Just this spring, a new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that thermal-printed receipts, like those given by many stores, supermarkets, ATM machines and gas stations, is a source of exposure to bisphenal A (BPA). The problem with BPA is that it mimics estrogen and has been shown to have adverse affections on reproductive health in adults and neurodevelopment in children.

Several years ago, consumers learned about the risk of BPA in canned goods, plastic bottles and food containers, but this spring a new study warned of the risks of handling thermal-printed paper receipts. The risk is relatively minor for healthy individuals who simply handle a few receipts when they’re shopping. But for employees who routinely handle them during an 8 hour shift, the risk is more significant (see sidebar.)

The study looked at BPA levels in urine before and after two hours of continuously handling receipts, first without gloves and then a week later wearing gloves.

At the two hour point, BPA levels in participants' urine was significantly elevated, rising from 1.8 micrograms per liter to 5.8 micrograms per liter. After 8 hours, some of the participants were tested again and their BPA levels had risen to 11.1 micrograms per liter, an almost five-fold increase.

The study’s authors recommend opting for email receipts when possible, but if you get a paper receipt you should wash your hands afterwards, then store the receipt in a sealed plastic bag. Kind of scary, isn’t it?

There are so many reasons to use digital receipts instead of paper. Better for the environment. More convenient for customers. Personalized messages and marketing. Analytic insights.

And now we can add “safety” to the list.

What about Employees?

The risk of BPA-tainted receipts raises concern for shoppers, but even more so for cashiers, sales staff or anyone else who handles receipts as part of their daily work.

A study by the Environmental Working Group found that people who work in retail industries had 30 percent more BPA in their bodies than the average adult, and 34 percent more BPA than other workers.

Worker rights groups and environmental activists have called for bans or boycotts of companies that use thermal-printed receipts. Some local governments have gone so far as to ban receipts coated with BPA. (To be fair, there are non-BPA alternatives, but the BPA-coated receipts seem to have a lock on the business.)

flexReceipts offer a risk-free alternative to paper that can keep both customers and your employees happy—and safe.