Think Twice Next Time About Touching a Receipt with Your Bare Hands -- Your Unborn Child May Thank You for It
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If you're looking to avoid further hormonal freakouts brought on by the hated Bisphenol A ( BPA) -- a frightening endocrine disruptor reportedly found in 96 percent of women but consumed more by their children, then you might want to clean out your wallet. Or perhaps forego shopping receipts altogether until you hear otherwise from conclusive scientific studies -- which could take many years to straggle in.
Two years ago, Canada became the first country to outright declare BPA, a controversially toxic compound for polycarbonate polymers and epoxy resins found in everyday plastics and other products, a toxic substance unsuitable for the First World. More recently, laggards like the European Union, the United States and more have banned it from baby bottles, but not everything else. That includes the thousands of point-of-sale thermal receipts ripped daily from cash registers, gas stations and other places too numerous to count, unless you're a scientist studying the toxicity of BPA or its less-known substitute Bisphenol S ( BPS) in those receipts and resins.
It should be by now common knowledge that BPA secretes enough weak estrogen to influence serious developmental and neurological deformities and diseases, such as the congenital defect hypospadias, a freaky misplacement of the urethra now twice as common in newborn boys as before. What is not as well known is how much BPA and BPS is in thermal receipts. In the specific case of BPS, we're in the dark.
"There's not much known about BPS as an endocrine disruptor," Dr. Andrea Gore, a fellow at The Endocrine Society and professor of pharmacology and toxicology at University of Texas at Austin, told AlterNet. "It's being used as a BPA substitute, but it's been introduced into the environment without any biological testing. There are a couple of studies out there suggesting that BPS, similar to BPA, is a weak estrogen. Beyond that, little to nothing is known about its effects in the body."
One recent study, however, has ascertained that people, especially store employees who handle thermal receipts daily, may be absorbing almost 20 times more BPS through their skin than BPA when it was considered safe. Led by Dr. Kurunthachalam Kannan from New York State Department of Health's Wadsworth Center and published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, it analyzed thermal receipts from the U.S., Japan, Korea and Vietnam and found BPS in all of them. Kannan confirmed to AlterNet that there is concern that BPS is no safer than BPA, and that the former's rate of absorption relative to the latter is startling. He found the question of whether endocrine disruptors are not as recognized or regulated as they should be too broad, but found truth in the propositions that public awareness seems limited relative to the threat and that regulation is lagging behind the data made public so far.
"Our work is on the presence and use of a toxic chemical, not about toxicity itself," he told AlterNet. "But certainly it is concerning if a product containing a toxic compound is touched all the time."
Similar studies have echoed Kannan's measured concern, although they have somewhat dispensed with his critical distance. Published in 2010 in Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry, " Transfer of Bisphenol A From Thermal Paper To the Skin" found that the toxic chemical was indeed transferred to dry fingers, ten times more so if they were wet or greasy. It also found indications that BPA can enter the skin to the point that it can't be washed off, and that people handling thermal paper daily for hours could, depending on the circumstances, encroach upon the margins of tolerable daily intake.