Reducing Exposure to Toxins ~IN YOU’RE CORNER WITH KATY IVES

By: State Senator Katy Ives (D-Newburyport)

In my effort to continue to focus these columns on bills that I will file in the next legislative session, I want to discuss in this edition a bill I sponsored last session which sought to reduce human exposure to a dangerous chemical hidden in many items of daily use.

It’s not uncommon to find the words “BPA-Free” written on things like your child’s water bottle, the food containers that hold your leftovers, or the canned goods in your pantry. BPA is the abbreviation for the chemical, bisphenol A, and there are important public health and environmental reasons for the push to ban its application in common household items. However, its use persists in an item most people come in contact with multiple times a day: receipts.

BPA has been used for decades to make the durable, polycarbonate plastics that are used in food and drink packaging, safety equipment, and medical devices. The chemical is also used in the epoxy resins found in adhesives and paint, as well as in the thermal paper used in lottery and airplane tickets and, most commonly, receipt paper for most point-of-sale cash register systems. Its wide application creates many opportunities for exposure. Consequently, recent studies show that BPA can be detected in the blood and urine of over 90% of the population.

Last session, I filed Senate Bill 1200, “An Act to Reduce Exposure to BPA,” which would have filled a major gap in the current public health regulatory framework which continues to permit the use of BPA in receipt paper despite its physical and behavioral health risks.

BPA is a known endocrine disruptor, altering normal hormone levels and producing adverse developmental, reproductive, and neurological effects. BPA has a particularly large impact on female fertility, interfering with the enzymes needed to produce the hormones key to healthy ovarian development. Exposure to the chemical has also been connected to brain and behavioral problems in childhood and increased risk of cancer in later life. Children, whose developing bodies are less equipped to efficiently eliminate toxins from their systems, are especially vulnerable to the effects of BPA exposure, including obesity, diabetes and ADHD.

This session, I will re-file my bill to ban BPA in receipt paper, and will be focused on garnering support for the legislation during the committee process, and getting this bill before legislators for action.

In the meantime, here are some helpful tips to reduce your own exposure to BPA-coated receipts:

1. Wear nitrile gloves (widely available online or at drugstores) if your job requires frequent contact with receipts.

2. Decline paper receipts at gas pumps, ATMs or retail cash registers, opting instead to have your receipt e-mailed if you’re given that choice. If you can, use your smart phone for plane and train tickets.

3. Use a sealed plastic bag to store receipts you need to keep rather than carrying them loose in your wallet, purse or shopping bag. The coating can just as easily rub off on other items and increase your exposure.

4. Wash your hands as soon as possible after touching receipts, especially before cooking or eating food.

5. Avoid using alcohol-based hand sanitizer directly after handling receipt paper. Studies have linked alcohol-based sanitizer with increased absorption of BPA through the skin. 

Senator Kathleen O’Connor Ives can be reached at