New BPA Culprit: Cash Register Receipts

Using hand sanitizer before going shopping might make things worse: scientists
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 23, 2014 12:02 PM CDT
New BPA Culprit: Cash Register Receipts
In this Friday, Nov. 23, 2012, file photo, a cashier hands a customer his change and receipt during a transaction in Henderson, Nev.   (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson, File)

Thought you'd cut your risk of BPA exposure by ditching plastic water bottles? You might have to add "stop asking for receipts at the store" to the list. Scientists tested the skin, blood, and urine of people before and after they handled receipts and other thermal papers that use bisphenol A as a print developer—and found that levels of the chemical rose, Forbes reports. Although the CDC won't definitively acknowledge BPA's risks—"More research is needed" is the official hedge on its fact sheet—WebMD points to various studies that have linked BPA to a variety of health issues, including a higher risk of cancer, heart problems, and brain and behavioral issues in babies and young children. Researchers who conducted the new study in PLoS One had participants handle receipt paper, then asked some of them to eat French fries using their hands.

BPA levels in the skin spiked to 581 micrograms of BPA within 45 seconds (and 40% of that was absorbed in just two seconds). Urine and blood BPA levels were also strikingly higher 90 minutes after holding the receipts—and numbers here were on par with those from previous studies that were linked to Type 2 diabetes and heart disease, Forbes notes. Levels were even higher for subjects who had used hand sanitizer before handling the receipts; scientists attribute this to sanitizers (and toiletries like sunscreen and lotion) making hands more absorbent. Forbes notes the study was "quite small and more research will be needed," while a spokesman for the American Chemistry Council notes the study's "unrealistic experimental conditions" and that "much of the data presented in this new study has very limited relevance to the potential for human exposure to BPA from handling thermal receipt paper." (Your BPA-free water bottle may still not be safe.)

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