Categories: cat welfare

Thermal paper receipts are toxic to people and cats. Hand sanitizer makes it worse

Are you aware that thermal receipts contain bisphenol A? Thermal receipts are the ones you get at supermarkets in the UK and in the USA, an estimated 93 percent of paper receipts are printed on thermal paper and are therefore coated with bisphenol A (or Bisphenol S).

Thermal paper receipts more than you bargained for. Image: Corporate America.

Environmental issues too

We also have to take into account that the paper used to make receipts come from trees and every year in the United States 3 million trees are required to make those receipts. In addition £4 billion of CO2 and 302 million pounds of solid waste are generated during receipt production.


Thermal paper receipts are the ones that come out of self-service checkout machines on a roll and are quite shiny. In the UK, in the past, they were automatically given to the purchaser. Nowadays customer service asks whether the customer wants a receipt. You should always say no unless you particularly want a record of your purchases.

Endocrine disruptor

This is because bisphenol A is toxic to people and their pets. Bisphenol A is sometimes referred to as BPA. You can look it up on the Internet but as I understand it the chemical can disrupt hormones (endocrine-disruptors) that are key to brain development. There will be other effects which I don’t want to go over here. Suffice to say that it is a toxic chemical which should not be in receipts which are handled no doubt by millions of people every day. It is very cynical of the retailers to continue with them in the full knowledge that they are poisoning customers.

Handsanitiser makes absorption far worse

I have just read, by the way, that if a person handles a cash-register receipt after applying hand sanitiser, which is commonplace nowadays, the amount of BPA that enters the bloodstream is much higher than normal. In fact I’m told that it is 10 times higher according to a study from the University of Missouri. So the coronavirus pandemic makes thermal receipts more dangerous to people.

Domestic cats

But today, as usual, I am more concerned about domestic cats. It is perfectly reasonable to paint a scenario at the end of which a domestic cat ingests a very small quanity of BPA. This is how it might happen. The cat’s guardian pops down to the corner shop to buy some provisions. She picks up the thermal receipt and puts it into her handbag or her purse. There are already a number of receipts there from the same shop. BPA is rubbed onto the fingers and palm of her right hand.

She opens the front door and her cat is waiting for her. She talks to her cat and pets him. She is pleased to see him. The feeling is mutual. She deposits a ery small amount of BPA onto his fur. Cats often lick fur that has been stroked by a person. It is an instinctive response. We don’t know exactly why they do this. It could be (1) to taste the person’s scent which has been deposited on the fur or (2) to smooth out the fur which has been ruffled by the stroking or (3) because they are stimulated to groom by the petting (my favorite assessment).

But in doing this the cat is likely to ingest some of this toxic chemical. It may be such a small amount as to be of no concern to anybody. But we don’t know. And cat guardians should do all they can to ensure that their cat companion is safe. Thermal receipts undermine that objective. And there may be a build up of the chemical.

Identifying thermal paper receipts

If you are unsure about thermal paper receipts, I’m told that if you rub the receipt with a coin it becomes dark. The BPA is dusted onto the paper which is why it is particularly problematic in that it can be rubbed off.


You may know all about these potential problems. But if you haven’t I would treat this as a warning to watch out for those receipts. When customer service asks whether you want one say no. If you have to have one I would handle it carefully and when I got home I would wash my hands with soap and water. This is particularly so if you have entered a shop and use hand sanitiser at the entrance.

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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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