Chemical regulatory committee recommends no action on basis of socio-economic analysis

The social and economic costs of banning bisphenol A (BPA) in cash register receipts outweigh any long-term benefits. This is the conclusion of the European Chemicals Agency’s (ECHA) committee for socio-economic assessment (SEAC).

Thermal paper is often used in till receipts and contains both an organic acid and a dye. When heated, the dye reacts with the acid, which is often BPA, and changes colour. Exploiting this response to rapidly produce well-defined ink patterns makes them ideal for cash registers.

But controversy has surrounded its use in these products as research suggests it is an endocrine disruptor. Earlier this year, the ECHA’s committee for risk assessment (RAC) ruled that there is a risk of BPA exposure for the unborn children of pregnant cashiers who handle large numbers of cash receipts. In light of this, the RAC called for a restriction on BPA in thermal paper.

Both forming part of a comprehensive review that will lead to a European commission ruling on BPA, the new SEAC report appears to adopt an opposing stance to the RAC’s conclusions. But the SEAC stress, even accounting for the socio-economic cost, there may be other reasons why BPA use should be restricted.

SEAC calculated the cost of a restriction, translated into a price rise of goods, would amount to €0.20–€0.60 (£0.15–£0.43) per working EU citizen per year.