Jeffrey Kluger
December 8, 2010

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To the long list of household items and other common objects contaminated with bisphenol A (BPA) — an endocrine disruptor linked to infertility, genital abnormalities, cancer and more — add something unexpected: money. The cash in your wallet, it turns out, may be dusted with the dangerous chemical, and that can cause real problems if you do the one thing you absolutely must do if you’re going to spend money — which is touch it.

BPA is most commonly used in producing plastic, and manufacturers go through it by the truckload: About 8 billion pounds of BPA are molded, cooked or poured into toys, baby products and other merchandise each year. That should have little effect on money, and indeed, the U.S. mint has no use for BPA when it prints paper currency.

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But the folks who manufacture thermal paper — the kind that’s used in inkless cash register receipts — depend on the chemical. And while the BPA is chemically bonded to plastics, it’s simply applied in a powdery film to paper, making it easy to rub off with a touch. Know that neat little pile of bills, receipts and coins the cashier hands you when you make a purchase? Know the way a receipt sometimes makes it into your wallet? That could be leaving a microdose of BPA on your money — one you not only pick up yourself, but also pass on to others when you spend a bill.

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