Friday, November 5, 2010

It gets worse -- BPA in cash register receipts is absorbed through the skin...

Apparently, three recent studies have shown that Bisphenol A -- the chemical that has everyone freaked out about baby bottles, canned foods/drinks, and cash register receipts -- is absorbed through the skin. This doesn't surprise me, since skin absorption is a common pathway for chemicals to enter our bodies. The studies found that cashiers tend to have higher levels of BPA in their bodies, since there are significant amounts of BPA on thermal paper used in cash register receipts.

Two separate studies found that pregnant women who worked as cashiers had the highest levels of BPA in their bodies. In a third study, researchers exposed sections of fresh ear skin from pigs (often used as a model for human skin) to BPA, and found that after three days, 65% of the BPA was absorbed. They repeated the experiment with small samples of excised living human skin, and found that 46% of the BPA was absorbed. These numbers may seem scary, but seriously, they exposed the skin samples to BPA for THREE days. That's not really representative of what happens in the real world.

Sure, BPA is absorbed through the skin, so take precautions when handling thermal paper. It might be a good idea for cashiers to wear gloves when working... or better yet, maybe stores should stop using BPA-containing thermal paper. According to the EPA, Japan phased out the use of BPA in thermal printing applications in 2004. That's six years ago!! There are obviously alternatives out there, so why are we still using BPA-laden receipts?

(To be fair, the EPA did note that the health and environmental effects of BPA alternatives have yet to be assessed. And that is definitely a concern. Sometimes alternatives aren't necessarily better.)

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