Does your pocket or purse have a secondary lining of crumpled-up receipts? If so, you may be putting yourself in danger every time you reach in to grab your wallet or lipstick, and the risk only increases if you’re using skin care products.
The safety of bisphenol A, or BPA, has been in debate for years now. Unfortunately, BPA is the primary ingredient in the thermal receipt paper printed out at cash registers, ATMs, and even some airline tickets. The Food and Drug Administration has stood by the use of BPA, but new research may challenge their stance.
The new study, co-authored by environmental health expert Frederick vom Saal from the University of Missouri-Columbia, reveals that the BPA in paper might have even more leaching ability than the FDA believes.
Study participants who held receipts right after using hand sanitizer had 185 times more BPA stuck to their skin after one minute than participants with dry hands. It also seemed that, after participants were exposed to BPA, the BPA content in their blood rose to levels associated with increased risk of diabetes and heart disease.
“This completely unravels the FDA’s position that BPA is safe,” vom Saal told the Huffington Post.
Researchers have clashed for years with the FDA’s approval of BPA, citing evidence that the use of BPA is associated with several health problems like asthsma, attention-deficit disorder, cancer, and diabetes.
As a result of changing public health concerns, products touting themselves as “BPA-free” have hit shelves everywhere. However, many of these products swapped BPA for bishenol S (BPS) which can disrupt the body’s hormone messengers and last even longer than BPA in the environment.
The reason that some researchers are still supporting BPA and BPS, according to vom Saal, is that they’ve focused too much on ingestion and not on exposure through the skin and lining of the mouth. BPA can be metabolized efficiently in the stomach upon ingestion, leading to negligent levels of BPA in the bloodstream.
The stomach’s ability to safely break down BPA is the main argument used by the FDA in support of the chemical. In an email to the Huffington Post, FDA spokeswoman Theresa Eisenman said “Based on FDA’s ongoing safety review of scientific evidence, the available information continues to support the safety of BPA for the currently approved uses in food containers and packaging.”
Receipts are actually outside FDA jurisdiction, but the chemical industry also stands by the use of BPA. They cite studies in which skin absorbed far less BPA, but none of the individuals in those studies were using skin care products when handling receipts. Many skin care products break down the skin’s dermal barrier in order to increase penetration, which may be the reason for the increased BPA levels.
Either way, vom Saal’s study may pave the way for more in-depth research into the effects of alternate means of exposure. Meanwhile, many stores are moving toward electronic receipts and receipts with fewer chemicals.