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Toxic chemicals in cash receipts can make you sick!

  • Staff Correspondent
  • 6 August, 2021 12:00 AM
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Touching printed cash receipts can significantly increase our body's uptake of a potentially dangerous chemical, bisphenol A (BPA), said a study report.

According to the study, the percentage availability of BPA in cash receipts is 0.08 per cent - 3.7 per cent by weight which is higher than the EU’s standard rate of 0.02 per cent by weight.

“Bisphenol A or BPA, an endocrine-disrupting harmful chemical, affects not only the humans but also the environment, animals and plants as well. BPA, initially created as an estrogen supplement, has been linked to development problems in infants and children, and cancer, obesity, diabetes and heart disease in adults,” said the researchers.

Environment and Social Development Organization (ESDO) published the research report on "BPA in Receipt: Toxin in Finger" in a virtual event on Thursday.

Researchers said BPA is broadly used as a plasticizer that is bound in polymers to make plastic bottles and food can liners and on thermal imaging paper used to print credit-card and cash register receipts, point-of-sale receipts, ATM receipts, prescription labels, airline tickets and other machine-generated receipts.

Chief Guest of the event, Md. Ashraf Uddin, Director General of Department of Environment-DoE expressed his concern over the issue and said, “The threat arising from BPA in receipts should not be overlooked.”

ESDO research team leader Dr. Shahriar Hossain said, “Thermal paper is usually used in cash register receipts in restaurants and stores, causing BPA contamination of food from fingers and hands.”

“BPA from thermal paper can be absorbed through the blood faster. At the levels measured in this study, many illnesses like diabetes and disorders like obesity can increase," he added.

The study revealed that BPA from receipts seeps into the skin, dramatically increasing the amount of BPA in the human body and the hand disinfectant increase the absorption rate. Additionally, commonly used skincare products also appear to increase the rate of absorption of BPA, the researchers said.

Ms. Keya Khan, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change said children and pregnant women are vulnerable to BPA, the health and environmental hazards need to be assessed and regulated.

The ESDO research team assessed the situation through a baseline survey carried out from February 2019 to January 2020 on total of 1350 people (Consumer and retailers) to assess public perception of Bisphenol-A (BPA) in thermal papers used in popular outlets in Bangladesh.

Besides, cash receipts have been collected from local shops (Fast food, super shop, restaurants, pharmacy, ATM etc.) and ATM booths of the surveyed areas by ESDO research team. The laboratory tests of thermal papers indicated the presence of BPA in quantities ranging from 10 – 53 μg/cm2 where 0 per cent of the population surveyed was aware of thermal paper containing BPA and its adverse effects.

Md. Enamul Haque, Additional Secretary, Health Service Division, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Prof. Dr. Abu Jafar Mahmud, Former Chairman, Department of Chemistry, University of Dhaka; Prof. Dr. Abul Hashem, Former Chairman, Department of Chemistry, Jahangirnagar University also joined the programme.