After two years of direct activism by Mamavtion and others, Target has quietly banned bisphenols like BPA and BPS from their thermal receipt paper making your family safer starting in 2021. And there’s more good news to share so stick around! You’ve trusted Mamavation to bring you topics like best & worst cookware, best & worst collagen, & best & worst probiotics, now join us as we bring you incredible news–Target is banning bisphenols from receipts and more surprises!
Disclosure: this post contains affiliate links.
VICTORY! Target Bans Bisphenols in Thermal Receipt Paper Making Both Workers & Customers Safer Starting in 2021
Two years ago, the Mamavation community led by Leah Segedie, launched a petition demanding Target ban the use of bisphenols in their thermal receipt paper to safeguard customers and workers from exposure. Over 51,000 signatures were gathered from the Mamavation community, which led to meetings with Target to discuss how dangerous bisphenols were to the hormonal health of Americans, especially young girls and pregnant women.
We met with Target alongside the Mind the Store Campaign & Green America to explain to them that Target shoppers are needlessly being exposed to high amounts of Bisphenol-S (BPS) in their receipt paper when they are handled, yet safer alternatives are available.
We didn’t get what we wanted right away, and we were getting ready to start more petitions when Target quietly changed their mind and announced the change in their 2020 corporate responsibility report which they just recently published.
“Later this year, Target will transition to phenol-free receipt paper for our stores. There is growing concern—backed by studies—around the negative health effects of handling BPA (bisphenol A) and BPS (bisphenol S), chemicals found in standard thermal receipt paper. By switching to a phenolfree receipt paper Target will be taking a significant step in proactively ensuring the ongoing safety and health of our team members and guests. By end of year 2020, Target expects to fully convert to phenol-free receipt paper for use in all standard and mobile-device checkout lanes.”
Inspiration Through Good Science–Target Petition Was Born
Pete has been studying bisphenols (like BPA & BPS) and their health impacts for decades. He made it very clear to us that the vast majority of Americans were exposed to bisphenols through the handling of thermal receipt paper. The exposure from thermal receipt paper is far more prevalent than exposure you get through can linings or drinking water from plastic.
Therefore, getting a big brand to take a leadership position in the marketplace and ban bisphenols would greatly benefit public health.
Today he celebrates with us!
“What we know from research by BPA experts is that thermal receipt papers… those seemingly innocuous part of our everyday lives, from ATM machines, gas station pumps, airline tickets, are probably the biggest source of BPA exposure most Americans experience” says Pete Myers. “This move by Target is incredibly important for the health of Americans. Thank you, Target.”
The News Gets Even Better! CVS is Also Banning BPA & BPS in Thermal Receipt Paper!!
There’s more good news to this story!
As Mamavation was working on Target, Green America petitioned CVS about their infamously looooooooooooooooong receipts as well. We supported their efforts by sending Mamavation community members to sign their petition.
And behind the scenes, the Mind the Store Campaign has been engaging with both Target & CVS (and many other retailers) for many years as they have evaluated their chemical policies and made suggestions on how to better safeguard families. Every year they produce an annual Mind the Store report looking at the top retailers and evaluating them for safer practices.
Now that both Target (starting 2021) and CVS (they completed their phase-out this year) have removed bisphenols from their thermal receipt paper, it’s my understanding they will receive additional good marks on their Mind the Store report card next year. Kudos to them!
What Are the Health Impacts of Bisphenols like BPA or BPS?
Bisphenols can leave your body a bit of a mess. Experimental data suggests BPA can affect a variety of endocrine signaling pathways, including those mediated by oestrogens (estrogen), androgens (testosterone), progestins, and thyroid hormone.
Pete points to scientific findings of BPA from many different sources, but especially the FDA’s own data. He says that if you look at the FDA’s current assessment of BPA safety, to truly be safe you would have to reduce exposures by at least 20,000-fold. The FDA is simply not doing its job for American chemical safety. They are leaving the public out to dry–or wrivel–, because they are protecting the interests of the chemical industry, not American consumers.
Exposure during pregnancy is the most dangerous where bisphenol exposure has been linked to changes in a wide array of developing tissues, with corresponding postnatal effects on growth, metabolism, behavior, fertility, and cancer risk. In other words, what happens in utero can come back to bite you again outside the womb and then decades later with developing cancers.
BPA is also the first hormone-disrupting chemical to be directly studied in a medically classic randomized controlled experiment in humans, which will likely be followed up by more studies in the coming years. But the first study done directly on humans linked low levels of bisphenol-A to raising diabetic insulin responses.
Additional health impacts linked to bisphenols chemicals are below.
- obesity & weight gain,
- Asthma in children,
- complications during IVF fertilization,
- hyperactivity in children,
- lowering Vitamin D in the body,
- irregular heartbeat,
- inflammation in the gut creating IBS,
- oxidative stress,
- breast and prostate cancers
Okay, What’s the Big Deal with Thermal Receipt Paper?
Thermal receipt paper is used by the vast majority of retailers in the United States, so this is an ongoing exposure for most people that other retailers need to improve on.
Most thermal receipt paper historically contained 1-2% of bisphenols like bisphenol-A (BPA) or bisphenol-S (BPS) by weight. It’s a unique exposure because the bisphenols are not bounded into the paper, but coated on the surface. The thermal receipt printing system inside the retail store uses a laser to heat up the thermal paper, which causes the bisphenols to turn a darker color. After less than a year, the printing starts to fade.
The problem with this exposure is it’s rather significant. Unlike when you handle cans and bottles that are lined with BPA/BPS where that chemical is “bounded” within the plastic and that means the molecules must break down in order for a person to be exposed to the chemical. When it comes to thermal receipt paper, the BPA/BPS is present in the loose powder, which leaves a chemical trace on your fingers very easily. Therefore, the contamination is higher in thermal receipt paper than it is with bottles and cans.
How Much Exposure Do Shoppers & Workers Get From Handling Thermal Receipts?
According to Finnish studies, people can expect to have between 0.8–18.9 ppm of bisphenols coming out of their urine when handling thermal receipt paper. The bisphenol powder on the receipt transfers to your skin, especially if your fingers are wet or greasy.
Levels of bisphenols increase inside the human body during specific situations:
- Women and children because of the thinness of their skin
- Workers show the highest levels. Someone who is a cash register could reach 71 ppm
- Anyone applying hand sanitizer, lotion or sunscreen to hands prior to handling of thermal receipts because the adjuncts in those products also work to make bisphenols absorb into the skin faster.
However, throw all this out the window because researchers have recently discovered that the amount of BPA being absorbed into our bodies is quite higher than originally thought. That’s because the methods being used this entire time were found to be faulty. Now experts are saying we are getting more BPA and other bisphenols than what the Feds are telling us.
Study Done on Thermal Receipt Paper Exposure in Humans Reveals Major Exposure to Americans
In 2014, a study was done on BPA and human participants analyzing urine levels before and after handling thermal receipt paper. Initially, participants handled the thermal receipt paper without wearing gloves and their urine tested high for bisphenols. Then about a week later, they handled the paper again. But this time they were broken up into groups: people handling receipts and wearing gloves AND people handling receipts and not wearing gloves.
- Two hours later, participants who handled receipts without gloves had a rise of BPA/BPS in the urine from 1.8 micrograms per liter to 5.8 micrograms per liter.
- Eight hours later, participants who handled receipts without gloves had a rise of BPA/BPS in the urine from 1.8 micrograms per liter to 11.1 micrograms per liter, an almost 5x increase.
- Participants that wore gloves while handling receipts had no significant increase in BPA, proving that the increase in BPA/BPS in urine had nothing to do with inhalation, but dermal contact through the skin.
Other Brands That Have Safer Receipts
There are other national brands that have tackled this issue and are already offering you a safer experience in their store with no bisphenols in their thermal receipt paper.
- Best Buy
- Lidl Grocery
- Moms Organic Market (MOMs)
- Trader Joe’s
- Whole Foods Market
Let’s hope this is just the beginning, these market leaders get some more attention, and more brands in the future follow suit.
Brands That Contain BPA or BPS Thermal Receipt Paper
EcoCenter.org tested the thermal receipt paper in 2018 of over 150 stores to ascertain which nationwide stores were exposing their customers to toxic bisphenols–BPA or BPS. Here is a list of the most recognizable brands analyzed:
- 7 Eleven: BPA
- Aldi: BPA
- Arby’s: BPS
- Baja Fresh: BPS
- Barnes & Noble: BPS
- Bed, Bath & Beyond: BPS
- Ben & Jerry’s: BPA
- Burger King: BPS
- Chase Bank: BPS
- Chipotle: BPS
- Chuck E Cheese: BPS
- Claire’s: BPS
- Coldstone Creamery: BPA
- Costco: BPS
- Dominos: BPA
- DSW: BPS
- Family Dollar: BPS
- Great Clips: BPS
- Home Depot: BPS
- Home Goods: BPS
- Justice: BPA
- Kroger: BPS
- Little Caesars: BPS
- Lowes: BPS
- McDonald’s: BPS
- Meijer: BPS
- Michael’s: BPS
- Panda Express: BPS
- Panera Bread: BPS
- Petco: BPS
- Pet Smart: BPS
- PNC Bank: BPS
- Rite Aid: BPS
- Sally Beauty: BPS
- Sears: BPS
- Shell Gas Station: BPS
- Staples: BPS
- Starbucks: BPS
- Subway: BPS
- Salvation Army: BPS
- Universal Studios: BPS
- US Post Office: BPS
- Vitamin Shoppe: BPS
- Walgreens: BPS
- Walmart: BPS
What Alternatives Do Other Brands Have?
Brands are frequently reading the research we do here at Mamavation so we wanted to help some of them out with options that are available to them. There are tons of viable options available.
In Green America’s Skip the Slip report they estimated “if just one company as large as Walgreens – with nearly six million customers every day – ends its use of paper receipts, over 55,000 trees will be saved each year…This change would save 58.8 millions of gallons of water and keep 17.6 million pounds of CO2 from entering the atmosphere.”
So here are some of those options:
- No Receipt Option. Train staff to ask customers if they want a receipt before they start the transaction. This will cut down on the amount of paper and could potentially also save money. And this also allows people just making smaller purchases with no intention of returning an item more flexibility.
- Provide an Optional Digital Receipt. Best Buy does this really well. Offer to email receipts instead of handing them a thermal receipt one. This would be the best option for someone like me to track. And there is another added benefit because it allows them to collect emails so they can keep me in the loop about sales and special promotions.
- Reformulate to the Pergafast 201 Thermal Receipt. The Pergafast 201 is what they have when you walk into Best Buy! Instead of using a BPA or BPS powder coating, this alternative was released in 2011. The substance doesn’t easily get into the skin. In other words, not as powdery.
- Reformulate to the Koehler-BLUE 4EST Receipts. The “blue forest” paper seems very promising and it’s even won an award, but it may be having supply issues. This paper uses a physical reaction to make the text appear instead. Heat applied to the paper activates carbon black paper underneath which results in print. Unlike the phenol thermal paper, this receipt paper causes no chemical reaction. This is the first thermal paper to be approved for direct contact with food. I hope their supply issues clear up for them so we can start seeing more of this paper soon.
- Reformulate to the ICONEX 2ST Thermal Receipt. Not much is known about this brand other than it allows printing on both sides of the page which can cut the need for paper. I have no idea what it’s made of.
- Reformulate to the Koehler KT 48PF Thermal Receipt. Not much is known about this option other than it allows receipts to last up to 50 years. Again, I have no idea what it’s made of.