I-TEAM: Toxic Receipts - How safe are your receipts?

DAYTON — What you can’t see on a receipt can hurt you. News Center 7′s I-Team found harmful chemicals used in much of the paper to print them.

When you buy something, you get a receipt; with each purchase, you get something extra - chemicals.

The I-Team has learned the chemicals include Bisphenols also known as BPS, and it’s on most receipts.

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According to research shared by the National Library of Medicine, BPS has been found to cause metabolic disorders, which can be toxic to the reproductive system and was shown to promote certain breast cancers hormonally.

Dr. Roberto Colon who is the Chief Medical Officer with Premier Health said, “We see them day in and day out. But we’re just starting to learn what the true impact on our health could potentially be.”

Colon said there’s been more research on how BPS affects animals than humans. And the data is concerning.

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“Some of the ways the body breaks down these chemicals create metabolic or byproducts inside our body. Some of those chemicals can potentially cause damage to some of our organs,” Colon said.

So, who’s at the most risk?

Colon said, “Moms who are pregnant because the developing fetus is going to be more susceptible to chemical impacts. Individuals with a pre-disposition for some conditions may have more of an impact.”

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As a shopper, Pamela Jamason normally only handles a few receipts. “We’re touching our bodies, our face and that’s not good,” she said.

But retail workers often handle hundreds, if not thousands of receipts per day. Mandy Maynard worked as a cashier at Walmart.

“All chemicals are scary when you don’t have to think about it. I don’t want to have no hormonal changes,” she said.

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News Center 7′s I-Team visited 24 local stores, restaurants, and gas stations, collecting paper receipts along the way. In all, Cox Media Group’s sister stations collected more than 240 receipts across eight states as part of a company-wide investigation.

We wanted to know if there were any harmful chemicals on the receipts we collected, so we took them to a lab in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where we went inside, and workers tested them.

Scientist Gillian Miller said, “It’s very clear that the chemicals come off the receipts very easily.”

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Miller is a senior scientist at the Ecology Center. She and Research Assistant Ihsan Akhatar showed News Center 7 their process.

They said 23 of the receipts that were collected tested positive for BPS. One receipt, from CVS, tested positive for Perfafast 201.

“It’s become popular because it’s not a Bisphenol, so it’s supposed to be a safer class of chemicals,” Miller said. “It’s a larger molecule so it doesn’t come off as easy and it probably doesn’t absorb into the skin as easily. So, I think it’s safer for consumers and workers.”

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Miller said CVS switched to receipt paper after working with Green America, which is a nonprofit organization that encourages environmental and ethical consumerism.

CVS also started offering e-receipts, and shortening the length of paper receipts, cutting down on paper waste.

News Center 7 went to Groceryland in Xenia and talked to the owner, Harry Patel. We showed him the I-Team’s receipt testing results, which tested positive for BPS.

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Patel said his employees have access to gloves. And, when he was asked about Groceryland’s receipt paper he said he was open to changing the paper and or going to e-receipts or no receipts at all.

According to Miller at the Ecology Center, businesses can limit workers’ risk by offering gloves to employees, changing receipt paper to one that has fewer chemicals or by offering e-receipts.

Jamason said, “From now on, I don’t want receipts.” She told the I-Team that an electronic receipt option is better for people and the planet.

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“We need to not get receipts anymore. They need to stop it,” she said.

News Center 7 reached out to the companies whose receipts we tested and we heard back from Sheetz and a spokesperson said, “The health and wellness of our customers and employees at Sheetz is a priority and we take the results from the Ecology Center’s Healthy Stuff Lab very seriously. We have been proactively working with our paper supplier to identify solutions to ensure the safety of all who visit our stores.”

To read the Ecology Center’s General Report on toxic receipts that was released in March 2023, click here.

For more information on Bisphenols and alternative developers, please read this report that was released in September 2023.

Below is a photo gallery that lists businesses in eight states where receipts were tested, along with their results:

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