Chemicals in receipt paper can be dangerous to your health, researcher says

You probably handle receipts every day. Most of them probably end up in the trash can, but the chemicals found in their paper could stay with you longer.

Along with our sister stations in Cox Media Group, 9 Investigates took part in a nationwide investigation.

We tested nearly 250 receipts from stores and restaurants around the country and found that 80% of them contain a chemical called Bisphenol S, or BPS.

>> Read the results below:

Some researchers say BPS can be harmful to the reproductive system. There’s a particular concern about exposure for young children, pregnant women, and workers -- like retail or restaurant employees who handle receipts all the time.

Alyssa Breese works at a retail store in one of Charlotte’s malls. The 21-year-old said she was concerned when she learned about the type of chemicals that can be found in receipts.

“It was just like, a little scary, because you don’t think about like harsh chemicals and everything when you go to your day-to-day job,” she said.

She’s worried about the impact those chemicals could have down the road.

“I know it’s in my age group, but I’m also -- in the future I’d like to have kids,” Breese said.

Gillian Miller works at The Ecology Center, a nonprofit environmental organization.

“Certainly the people who are handling receipts during a job are much more highly exposed, even though regular consumers are also exposed just handling,” she said.

The Ecology Center’s lab carries out research on pollutants in consumer products, air, soil, water, and more.

“Almost all receipts these days are, at least in the United States where we’ve done testing, are BPA-free,” Miller said. “But they’ve moved to BPS, which actually turns out to be a similarly hazardous chemical.”

CMG sister stations collected more than 240 receipts across eight states as part of the company-wide investigation. We then carefully packaged the receipts and shipped them off to The Ecology Center lab in Michigan.

The results showed 80% of the receipts, or 195 of them, contained BPS.

Here in the Carolinas, 26 of the 31 receipts we collected came back positive for BPS. One came back positive for Bisphenol A, or BPA.

A trade group representing companies that make paper receipts told us...”if BPA has been found, it is from a source which is...violating BPA-free requirements.” Regarding receipts with BPS, it claims “there is no reliable science regarding the impact of BPS on human health,” pointing out the chemical is found in a long list of consumer products.

“These are not chemicals we should have in our bodies,” said Dr. Laura Vandenberg.

Vandenberg is a professor of environmental health sciences at University of Massachusetts Amherst.

“When we look at people who have higher levels of exposure, they’re more likely to have metabolic disease, they’re more likely to have neurological conditions, they’re more likely to develop certain cancers and fertility problems,“ Vandenberg said.

Vandenberg shared advice with 9 Investigates.

“I think the best thing that we can do is say no thanks to the receipt when we can,” she said.

A lot of places offer other options, like an emailed receipt. If you use that option, you can set up a secondary email address if you’re worried about spam.

If you get a paper copy, The Ecology Center suggests folding the receipts inward because the back is typically not coated.

Some national chains, like CVS, Starbucks, Whole Foods and HomeGoods, have moved away from phenol receipts. Our tests backed that up.

We reached out to every company that had receipts test positive for BPS or BPA. We’ll let you know if they consider making changes to their paper.

(WATCH BELOW: 9 Investigates: Atrium says it recently stopped suing patients over medical debt)

Evan Donovan

Evan Donovan, wsoctv.com

Evan is an anchor and reporter for Channel 9.