Fifty percent of cash register receipts and most dollar bills tested in a new study are coated with large quantities of toxic chemical Bisphenol A, or BPA, says a study.
The study also found that the chemical easily transferred to the skin from receipts, which may lead to exposure at levels equivalent to exposure from food sources.
BPA is a hormone-disrupting chemical linked with cancer, infertility and other health issues in studies. The chemical is commonly used in plastic bottles, food can liners and adhesives as well as a color developer in thermal paper used for cash register and credit card machine receipts.
The Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families Coalition and Washington Toxics Coalition investigated the trail of BPA by testing cash register receipts and the money in people's wallets. The researchers collected receipts made with thermal paper from 22 retailers in 10 states and Washington, D.C.
Tests found BPA in very large quantities - up to 2.2 percent of the total weight - in 11 of the 22 receipts, researchers said.
BPA transferred easily from thermal paper receipts to a person's fingers. Holding the receipts for just 10 seconds transferred up to 2.5 micrograms of BPA to human skin, and rubbing the receipts transferred about 15 times of that amount, the study said.
From those receipts, the BPA could easily travel onto dollar bills, the researchers found. BPA was found on 21 of 22 bills tested, but at much lower levels than on the thermal receipts.
Produced in quantities of about six billion pounds each year worldwide, BPA is one of the most widely used chemicals of all time.
Andy Igrejas, director of Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families called on the 112th Congress to reform the failed 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act. BPA on receipts, dollar bills and in many other products is a direct result of the absurdly lax controls on chemicals in the United States, he said.
Last month, the World Health Organization said BPA does not accumulate in the body, but recent studies found associations between low BPA exposure levels and some adverse health outcomes.
In September 2010, Canada became the first country to declare BPA as a toxic substance. In the European Union and Canada, BPA use is banned in baby bottles.
In the United States, seven states have banned BPA-containing baby bottles. A 2010 report from the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) shared concerns with the National Toxicology Program about the effects on the BPA on fetuses, infants and young children, but did not recommend discontinuing use of products that contain BPA.
During the past decade, an explosion of research have shown a correlation between BPA and obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular problems.