A high level of toxic chemical has been found in the cash receipts that customers get through machines at payment counters of restaurants, super shops and ATM booths, according to a study report released on Thursday.
Bisphenol A affects not only the humans but environment, animals and plants as well, said the study by Environment and Social Development Organization (ESDO) in its new research report on "BPA in Receipt: Toxin in Finger" in a virtual event.
The report said 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.
Researchers said that 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.
According to this study the percentage availability of BPA in Cash Receipts is 0.08% - 3.7% by weight which is higher than the EU’s standard rate 0.02% by weight.
ESDO research team leader Dr. Shahriar Hossain said that thermal paper is usually used in cash register receipts in restaurants, food stores doing BPA contamination of food from fingers and hands.
He said 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 increased the absorption rate. Additionally, commonly used skin care products also appear to increase the rate of absorption of BPA, the researchers commented.
ESDO research team assessed the situation through a baseline survey carried out from February 2019 to January 2020 on total 1350 people (Consumer and retailers) to assess public perception on 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 found the presence of BPA in quantities ranging from 10 – 53 μg/cm2 where 0% of the population surveyed was aware of thermal paper containing BPA and its adverse effects.
Former Secretary and ESDO Chairperson Syed Marghub Murshed, who presided over the session, said the current outlook is based on a review by the ESDO of numerous studies, as well as its in-depth research on BPA.
He urged the government to work seriously on this subject, while ESDO will assist the government in integrating the issue of BPA into regulations.
Joint Secretary of Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change Keya Khan attended the event as special guest.
She stated that as children and pregnant women are vulnerable to BPA, the health and environmental hazards needs to be assessed and regulated through proper monitoring.
Additional Secretary of Health Service Division Enamul Haque of Ministry of Health and Family Welfare appreciated the initiative and called for taking necessary steps to look for environmental friendly alternative immediately.
ESDO Executive Director Siddika Sultanacalled for a proper waste segregation and management for BPA coated receipts to prevent BPA contamination of drinking water and food.
Director General of Department of Environment (DoE) expressed his concern over the issue while delivering his speech as chief guest. He said “The threat arising from BPA in receipts should not be overlooked.”
He spoke of the need for formulating regulation to tackle the problem.
Former Chairman of Department of Chemistry in the University of Dhaka Prof. Dr. Abu Jafar Mahmud, , Former Chairman of Department of Chemistry in Jahangirnagar University Prof. Dr. Abul Hashem, Director of DOE Masud Iqbal Shameem,
,Project Coordinator of Environmental Intervention Unit, icddr,b Dr. Md. Mahbubur Rahman also spoke at the programme.