Dirty Money: BPA Traces Found on 95% of Dollar Bills

Sal holds a political science degree from the George Washington University. He's written about all things environment since 2007.
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Notorious BIG was right: 'mo money, 'mo problems. (Photo: Choi Bo-Seok / Reuters)

Talk about toxic assets.

A new report says that 95 percent of dollar bills are contaminated with trace levels of bisphenol A, or BPA, a chemical linked to cancer.

How could the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have allowed the U.S. Treasury Department to print dollar bills on paper laced with dangerous chemicals?

It didn’t.

BPA is transferred to dollar bills from store receipts, so called “thermal receipts.” Half of the receipts collected by researchers working with Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families and the Washington Toxics Coalition were made with large quantities of "unbound" BPA.

Unlike BPA in baby bottles, for example, “unbound” BPA on thermal paper isn't chemically attached in any way: it's a powdery film that lies on the surface of receipts.

Meaning it can rub off onto other items. Items like dollar bills.

"Our findings demonstrate that BPA cannot be avoided, even by the most conscious consumer," said Erika Schreder of the Washington Toxics Coalition, and lead author of the report.

Commonly associated with plastic bottles and the linings of food cans, BPA has been linked to sexual dysfunction, early onset of puberty, increased cardiovascular disease, and changes in brain development, reports Time.

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The root of the problem: receipts. (Photo: Steve Snodgrass/Creative Commons)

Last month, the Los Angeles Times reported on a University of Texas study that found "quantifiable levels" of BPA in 63 of 105 foods purchased from Dallas-area grocery stores. 

Two bills currently in Congress would increase the Environmental Protection Agency's ability to curb the use of BPA and other toxic chemicals, says the report.

Until then, the report suggests several ways for consumers to avoid BPA:

—Refuse a receipt when you can.

—Store your receipts separately, such as in a small envelope, in your wallet or purse.

—Wash your hands after handing receipts or money.

—Keep receipts away from children.

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