Check that receipt! It could cause cancer; how locals are taking action the nation may follow

Posted at 6:59 PM, Jan 01, 2013
and last updated 2013-01-01 21:28:59-05

It’s something most people do so frequently that they’re not likely to think twice about it, but every time they handle a certain type of very common sales receipt, they’re risking cancer or some other type of illness.  It’s why some Long Islanders are taking action, and whole county in which they live is following suit.  The rest of the country could eventually follow.

A chemical used in the thermal printing process, Bisphenol-A, or BPA, helps to develop the images on sales receipts printed by thermal printers.  They’re the type of printing devices commonly found in gas pumps and at retail stores.

BPA had also, at one time, been commonly found in children’s and infants’ plastic drinking containers, like sippy cups and baby bottles.  However, earlier this year, the federal government banned BPA in those containers because of the possible health effects of coming into contact with the chemical substance.

Breast and prostate cancers, as well as endocrine disorders, learning disabilities, obesity and diabetes have been linked to BPA in a variety of studies.

The presence of the substance in sales receipts, however, has not so far spurred legislative action.   That is about to change this week.

“We don’t know what causes cancer, but it hits every kind of person,” said Shelby Poole, owner of Jackson’s Restaurant in Commack, “And we as individuals have to take a little bit of action.”  She was talking about the action she took at her eatery on Jericho Turnpike two years ago.

She’d gone to a breast cancer prevention fair, and had seen materials linking BPA and the disease.  Since she had recently had a baby, she felt she had to ensure that every thermal printer in her restaurant had to go.

“When I found out there was BPA in thermal receipt paper, which I handle quite frequently on a day to day basis,” Poole said, “It was so upsetting.”

She immediately replaced her thermal printers with new conventional ones.  Over time, her restaurant’s example caught the attention of Suffolk County legislator Steve Stern (D-Huntington), who wrote a bill called the Safe Sales Slip Act, which sets methods to remove thermal printer receipts from Suffolk County.

If the measure seems to be a minor action against a massive problem, a local breast cancer activist provides a remember that the national BPA ban from baby bottles and sippy cups had to start somewhere.  That place happened to have been Suffolk County,  Long Island, just like the sales receipt BPA legislation.

“We were the first county in the country to do that,” Elsa Ford, director of the Brentwood/Bay Shore Breast Cancer Coalition, told PIX11 News, “and just this year, in July, the [FDA] has done the same thing.”

As a tribute to the healthful action Shelby Poole and Jackson’s Restaurant have taken, Legislator Stern will this Thursday hold the signing of the Safe Sales Slip Act into law in the dining room of Jackson’s.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone will sign the bill in an 11:30 A.M. ceremony that includes Poole, Ford and other advocates for reducing BPA.