High concentration of a toxic chemical, which can often lead to cancer, was found in cash receipts dispensed by ATM booth, super shops, restaurants, fast food outlets and other EPOS machines in Bangladesh.
The main carcinogenic chemical found in the receipts was Bisphenol A, commonly known as BPA, a synthesised chemical compound used in industrial manufacturing.
A study – “BPA in receipt: Toxin in finger” – conducted by Environment and Social Development Organization (ESDO), came up with the findings. The full study will be published on Thursday.
ESDO collected 36 sample receipts from different places. Of them, 5 receipts are from ATMs, 6 from fast food shops, 2 from bakeries and 3 each from restaurants, stationery shops, sweet shops, brand shop and pharmacy, 2 from cash register machines and rest of the 6 receipts from EPOS machines.
Samples were sent to the analytical laboratory at the University of Minnesota Duluth in the US for traces of BPA using sensitive and standard BPA test methods.
According to test results, 3.8 per cent mass of BPA relative to mass of receipt weight have found in receipt in clothing shop, 2.9 per cent in ATM booth, 2.8 per cent in restaurant, 2.2 per cent each in food shops and bakeries, 2.1 per cent in super shops, 1.8 per cent each in pharmacies and fast food shops, 1.6 per cent in stationary shops, and 0.8 per cent in sweet shops.
Already, some countries including Japan and Belgium have banned the use of BPA while the European Union imposed a limit for BPA concentration in thermal paper in 2020 at less than or equal to 0.02 per cent of the weight. South Korea also proposed a restriction on BPA in all thermal papers by May 2022.
“No one in our country cares about the health effects of BPA as there are no rules and regulations to ban or control its use in thermal paper,” ESDO Secretary General Shahriar Hossain told The Business Post.
“BPA is used in paper during manufacturing. This chemical is used to make the paper plain, glossy and strong so that it does not tear apart when the paper goes through the machine,” he added.
“All the thermal papers are imported as there is no manufacturing unit in the country. By considering the health effect of this toxic chemical, the government should ban its use as there are several alternatives available across the world,” he said.
Health effects of BPA
Humans can be exposed to this chemical through skin contact or direct consumption. The human skin can absorb this chemical while it can go directly to stomach if anyone touches the receipt and put their finger in their mouth.
Exposure to BPA also appears to be linked to the higher incidence of uterus, ovarian, prostate and testicular cancers.
It was found that there is about 27 per cent to 135 per cent greater risk of high blood pressure among people with high exposure to BPA. Similarly, 50 per cent to 85 per cent of people with higher BPA exposure are more prone to obesity while 59 per cent of them were prone to large waist circumferences.
Higher BPA levels were linked to 68 per cent to 130 per cent higher risk of Type-2 diabetes.
A higher concentration of BPA in urine is related to certain cardiovascular conditions such as heart attack, angina, and other heart problems. People linked higher BPA levels are at greater risk of heart disease while it can also decreased fertility and affect the female reproductive system.
BPA has impact on animal life and environment.
“No one told me about this chemical. I am not aware of this chemical used in thermal paper. If there is any health effect, we will change the paper type,” Shwapno super shop CEO Sabbir Nasir told The Business Post.
“We receive the paper from suppliers. We will inquire more about this from the suppliers and researchers,” he added.
The ESDO study found that the awareness level among both consumers and retailer in respect to BPA exposure is very low. Only 67 people out of 1,350 surveyed have some idea about BPA in other products but less idea about its use in thermal paper.
From the present study, 55 per cent of those surveyed said it is urgent to create awareness about the negative effects of BPA in products. Meanwhile, 39 per cent of them said the government should also take initiatives and make regulations regarding BPA in products.
“There are no rules or regulations regarding BPA in the country. We need to see the report first,” Mirza Shawkat Ali, director for climate change and international convention at the Department of Environment, said.
“We do not know that a harmful chemical is using in thermal paper. I will talk to my supplier abroad to get more information and will look for source the safer one. We will do that even before any law is introduced in the country if it is found harmful,” said Sheikh Imran Hossain, director of Master Simex Paper Limited, an importer and supplier of thermal paper.