Your receipt could have worrying levels of cancer-linked chemicals

A new experiment by Environmental Defence Canada has some troubling results for anyone who works in the retail industry in Canada.

The problem: hormone disrupting industrial chemicals used in making thermal paper receipts.

"These slips of paper are covertly exposing cashiers to worrying levels of hormone disrupting BPA and BPS every day," Muhannad Malas, toxics program manager at EDC, told CTV News. "It is even more alarming that this is happening within the bodies of hundreds of thousands of women and teenage cashiers who are more biologically vulnerable to the effects of these chemicals and who handle dozens of receipts daily."

Malas and three other environmentalists voluntarily handled receipts, tickets and passes printed on thermal paper for about 15 minutes and then tested their urine to determine the levels of BPA and BPS -- hormone disrupting industrial chemicals that have been linked to diabetes, obesity, ADHD and breast and prostate cancers -- in their blood eight hours later.

All four went through a two-week BPA and BPS detox (avoiding all sources of the chemicals) before the experiment.

Prior to handling the thermal paper all four had near undetectable levels, but after the test BPA levels jumped to 42 times higher than the baseline and BPS levels increased by up to 115 times.

"As a consumer, this scares the bejeebers out of me," author Rick Smith said.

Union leaders representing retail workers also found the findings disturbing.

"A lot of them don't even know that these chemicals exist," United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Canada health and safety representative Mary Shaw told CTV News. "They are not being informed by their employers either which is incredibly frustrating."

The European Union has banned the use of BPA in receipts starting in 2020.

Canada was the first country to ban the use of BPA in baby bottles nine years ago; however there is no ban on using BPA in thermal paper.

In a statement sent to CTV News, a Health Canada spokesperson said the department "is committed to protecting Canadians from harmful substances" and "is aware of the use of Bisphenol A (BPA) in the production of thermal paper."