Bisphenol A (BPA) is an endocrine-disrupting chemical, and has been associated with health effects such as premature puberty and developmental neurotoxicity. Massive quantities of BPA – about 10 billion pounds and rising – are produced each year, making it one of the highest volume chemicals in commerce. For that reason alone, it may not be surprising that scientists find BPA in the urine of nearly all people they test.
It has generally been thought that exposure to BPA primarily comes from dietary sources (see here and here) due to its use in food packaging products such as metal cans and polycarbonate bottles. Based on these concerns and market pressure, FDA amended its regulations to no longer provide for the use of BPA-based materials in baby bottles, sippy cups, and infant formula packaging, and France passed a law banning BPA in all food packaging containers as a precautionary measure.
However, there is growing evidence that non-dietary sources of BPA exposure may be important. One potentially overlooked but significant source of exposure is the use of BPA to make thermal receipts, which are commonly used in cash registers and ATMs. Unlike BPA used to make food packaging, which uses polymerized or otherwise chemically bound BPA molecules, thermal receipts are coated with BPA in free form, only loosely attached to the paper.
A study just published by researchers at the University of Missouri and the Universite de Toulouse suggests that we may be underestimating the role of dermal exposure to BPA from handling of thermal receipts, especially in certain common settings. The researchers tested the impact that use of a hand sanitizer immediately preceding handling a thermal paper receipt has on the transfer and absorption of BPA. Hand sanitizers and other skin care products may contain chemicals called “dermal penetration enhancers,” which increase skin permeability, for example, to facilitate drug delivery. Read More