You might want to leave the receipt in the bag...

TYLER, TX (KLTV) - By Layron Livingston - bio | email
Posted by Ellen Krafve - bio | email | Twitter

TYLER, TX (KLTV) - Chances are, you have got a purse, or wallet, maybe an entire kitchen drawer full of receipts. No harm, right? Well, think again.

The Environmental Working Group says those little slips of paper could be exposing you and your family to a dangerous, potentially deadly chemical.

You may want to give your receipts a second look, but don't touch. If you buy it, they will come.

On closer inspection, researchers found high levels of Bisphenol-A, or BPA, on sales receipts. Forty percent of them, sampled from grocery stores, gas stations, ATM's and major retailers from across the country.

"Those are usually the ones I hang on to," said Kimberly Downing. "That's where I spend my money."

Downing had a few receipts on her.

"I had no idea," said Downing. "That's kind of concerning."

Even more concerning is that the amounts of BPA on those receipts were up to a thousand times greater than other sources of exposure. In recent years, researchers have warned BPA in plastic baby bottles and sports bottles could cause serious health problems, including cancer, and hurt the endocrine system.

"[The] endocrine system is the system that regulates your hormones and development," said Dr. Gary Deboer, Ph.D,  a chemistry professor.

Deboer says the debate on whether BPA disrupts that system is still inconclusive so the concerns are justified.

"What you have in BPA are these 'O' groups, which are alcohols and alcohols help make things more soluble in water...and therefore, BPA may be more soluble in our bloodstream," said Deboer.

The chemical is used to coat thermal receipt paper. Researchers say it is unknown how much BPA actually gets transferred from the receipts to the skin and later into the body.

For now, he has advice.

"I would think you'd want to wash your hands after touching anything that comes from a public place," said Deboer.

Or, perhaps, just leave the receipt in the bag.

The Environmental Working Group reports retail workers carry about 30% more BPA in their bodies than other adults. Possibly because they handle receipts all day long. The Environmental Protection Agency plans to look into the safety and alternatives to BPA in receipts.

Copyright 2010 KLTV. All rights reserved.