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Think Twice Next Time About Touching a Receipt with Your Bare Hands -- Your Unborn Child May Thank You for It

If you're looking to avoid further hormonal freakouts brought on by industrial chemicals then you might want to clean out your wallet.

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"On the printed side of the paper, BPA is present almost as a pure chemical," the study's co-author Koni Grob, analyst for Switzerland's Official Food Control Authority in Zurich, explained to AlterNet. "Working with such paper means constantly putting fingers into the chemical, which no chemist would ever do. At present uncertainty, as a pregnant woman, I would not accept touching BPA all day long."

Grob also explained that there is a broad debate about the toxicity of thermal receipts, and that the jury is still out on the scientific proof for our levels of exposure. But he warned that it is "most critical" to limit exposure to mothers and their foetusus, and that "it is up to scientists and authorities to resolve this problem. Scaring the public is useless and unfair."

But that is often where the science and common sense part company. Scaring the public, using the pretty solid science on BPA and emergent studies on BPS provided so far by Grob's "scientists and authorities" -- who have historically remained conservative in their assessments of the toxicity of everyday life -- is often what it takes to widen the public and professional dialogue and kickstart greater regulation of what are obviously dangerous chemicals. That they are in things we need -- and more often don't really need, like the majority of thermal receipts which could easily be electronically replaced -- is already a sign that their usage is far too ubiquitous. BPA's major route of exposure is diet, which means it's in our food and water, and in the things in which we store our food and water, together comprising a rather staggering amount of our toxic everyday life.

And the list of things that can go wrong because of too much exposure to BPA is a horror show, starring existential threats like cancer and diabetes to more sensational scares like genital and genetic deformities. On a good day, you probably don't really want to read how endocrine disruptors screw up your mind and body, but you probably should on any given day, and then tell a neighbor. Because science often needs a more primal mover than its own intellectual curiosity: According to Environmental Working Group senior analyst Sonya Lunder, science funded by the BPA industry says everything's fine, while those outside its influence say everything is actually rather scary.

"It is unclear how much BPA-coated receipts contribute to people's total exposure to the ubiquitous plastics chemical," Lunder explained in EWG's 2010 study " Synthetic estrogen BPA coats cash register receipts" co-authored with senior scientist David Andrews and senior vice-president for research Jane Houlihan. "What is certain, however, is that since many retail outlets already use BPA-free paper for their receipts, this is one source of contamination that could easily be eliminated completely."

Scott Thill runs the online mag Morphizm.com. His writing has appeared on Salon, XLR8R, All Music Guide, Wired and others.
 
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