JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Action News Jax collected dozens of local receipts and had them tested by a lab. It found most of them contained a harmful chemical.
Since most places still offer paper receipts, we have them in our wallets or purses, our cars, or our homes. You may not realize it, but there are harmful chemicals in many of those paper receipts, including Bisphenol-S, also known as, BPS.
According to research shared by the National Library of Medicine, BPS has been found to cause metabolic disorders, can be toxic to the reproductive system, and has been shown to hormonally promote certain breast cancers.
To see how widespread these chemicals are in Jacksonville, Action News Jax Investigates went to the same places you probably visit every day like when you shop for food, fill up your gas tank, or grab a bite to eat. We went to 30 locations all together and collected paper receipts along the way.
And so did our sister stations across the country. We collected 245 receipts across eight states as part of the company-wide investigation.
We then carefully packaged the receipts and shipped them to Ecology Center Lab in Michigan.
The results showed that 80 percent, or 195 of the receipts, contained BPS. BPS is very similar to Bisphenol-A or BPA, though its toxicity is more widely known. The lab’s test found one local pizza joint, Milano’s on Beach Boulevard, had BPA in the receipt. We reached out for comment but did not hear back. Some paper companies switched from BPA to BPS. But both are considered toxic. The EPA classifies both chemicals as a potentially high hazard for toxicity in human development.
Dr. Laura Vandenberg is a Professor of Environmental Health Sciences at UMass Amherst. She said, “These are not chemicals we should have in our bodies.”
“Should it be used in contact with food? Should it be used in contact with something that I get every time I go to the grocery store, the ATM, or get a plane ticket? No, I don’t think it should be in those products,” Vandenberg said.
Vandenberg conducted a study in 2017 and found on average people held their receipts for more than 11 minutes -- which is longer than regulatory agencies estimate. Vandenberg said in her study, “Someone blotted their pizza grease with the thermal paper. Someone used it as a napkin. Someone blotted their lipstick.”
Some shops, including Costco and Marshalls, say they have moved away from BPS. Their receipts both tested positive for pergafast 201, a chemical that is marketed as a safer alternative.
Target says it converted fully to phenol-free receipt paper in 2020. But the lab found the receipt from the Target in Jacksonville tested positive for BPS. We reached out for comment but did not hear back.
Vandenberg’s advice: “Say, ‘No thanks,’ when it comes to a paper receipt, and for folks handling them because it’s part of their job, wash your hands and don’t use hand sanitizer because hand sanitizer can actually increase the uptake of the chemicals into your body.”
Many of the stores we contacted had no idea there were toxic chemicals on the receipt.
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“Appreciate you taking the time to contact us at Rowe’s. This is the first I’ve heard about the relationship with thermal receipt paper and BPS, is there a good number I can reach you for a phone call? I would also like to see the test results from the Ecology Center you referenced in your message if this is something you’re able to share. Thank you again for reaching out to us, I look forward to your response.”
“Unfortunately, we are unaware and will change immediately. There was no label or information informing us until we received the email. Nobody from the vendor or manufacturer has ever mentioned it nor have we heard of it. We would rather not comment publicly just change the paper out and do the right thing. We appreciate it, thank you.”
“Thanks for reaching out and for bringing this to our attention. The safety of both our teams and guests is always our top priority, and we’re looking into this with our supply partners. At this time, we have nothing further to share.”
“I was forwarded your inquiry to our Jacksonville office earlier this week related to the work you’re doing with the Ecology Center. I’m checking into this with our operations teams.”
“Costco warehouses across the U.S. have already converted to bisphenol-free receipt paper and our gas stations are currently in transition.”
“The safety and well-being of our employees and customers is a top priority. Our receipts do not contain BPA. While our receipt paper does have some BPS content and other phenols, we will explore alternatives and continue to follow all applicable local, state and federal guidelines.”
TJ-Maxx, Marshalls and HomeGoods
“We are pleased to have implemented our plan to phase out all phenol-based coatings (e.g., BPA, BPS, BPF, BPB, BPAF) on paper customer sales receipts in our stores. We initiated the implementation of this program in our U.S. stores in 2021 and subsequently expanded it to our stores in other geographies. We speak to our approach to chemicals management, as well as our phenol-free receipt program, here.”
“I don’t have a written statement for you, but I can confirm that Whole Foods Market stores have used bisphenol-free paper receipts in all our stores since 2020.”
“Wells Fargo declines to comment.
“I did want to share some past media coverage about the various non-physical receipt options that Wells Fargo has had in place for more than a decade. https://hothardware.com/news/wells-fargo-introduces-text-receipts-for-atm-transactions”
“In accordance with our packaging standards, Starbucks has been using bisphenol-free receipt paper in all of our company-owned stores in the U.S. since 2014.”
See the full test results below: