In a new study published in the online journal PLOS One, researchers report that touching a cash register receipt can dramatically increase your body’s absorption of the potentially dangerous chemical bisphenol A (BPA), according to a CBS report. BPA has been linked to developmental problems in infants and children, as well as to cancer, obesity, diabetes, and heart disease in adults.
BPA is commonly found in a wide range of products from plastic water bottles to the lining of food cans, and it is frequently used as a print developer in the thermal paper for airline tickets and store and ATM receipts.
Julia Taylor, the study’s lead author and an associate professor in the division of biological sciences at the University of Missouri, says that because BPA is an endocrine disruptor the health risks are considerable. BPA from thermal paper is rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream, and some commonly used skin care products appear to increase BPA’s absorption rate.
As reported on CBS, for this study researchers had people touch cash register receipts after using a hand sanitizer, then took blood and urine samples. They found that BPA from the paper seeped into the participant’s skin quickly, significantly increasing BPA levels in their bodies. The hand sanitizer actually increased the absorption rate. And because BPA is so commonly used in many products, its presence can be detected in over 90 percent of Americans.
Some manufacturers are replacing BPA with a similar chemical bisophenol S, which Taylor speculates is a response to public awareness and a desire to find a more acceptable substitute. But researchers say that it may be no safer since BPS is like BPA in the way it mimics estrogen.
Steven Hentges, spokesperson for the American Chemistry Council, takes issue with the study, stressing that BPA is safe by pointing out that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved it for use in food containers, and referring to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that demonstrates exposure to BPA from all sources is extremely low for most people.