Thursday, July 29, 2010

The BPA Drumbeat goes on....

BPA 101 for those who haven't heard of it : Bisphenol-A is a known endocrine disruptor that can behave in a manner resembling natural estrogen, and is already rife in the bodies of most people in the developed world. Main routes of exposure so far are the ubiquitous plastics that we use, canned food (linings of the can).

Now, the Environmental Working Group has identified a new source of more BPA exposure: the humble cash receipt that we receive at every store and gas station, or at least 40% of them. 

"The plastic component bisphenol A (BPA) has been in the headlines nonstop as scientists, health experts and consumers press for a federal ban on food packaging made with this synthetic estrogen, shown to leach readily into infant formula, beverages and canned food. But most Americans are probably unaware that they are regularly exposed to the same endocrine-disrupting chemical in cash register receipts.
Two-fifths of the paper receipts tested by a major laboratory commissioned by Environmental Working Group were on heat-activated paper that was between 0.8 to nearly 3 percent pure BPA by weight. Wipe tests conducted with a damp laboratory paper easily picked up a portion of the receipts' BPA coating, indicating that the chemical would likely stick to the skin of anyone who handled them. The receipts came from major retailers, grocery stores, convenience stores, gas stations, fast-food restaurants, post offices and automatic teller machines (ATMs)."

I did a mini-test on all the receipts piling up on my desk (Oh the joys of unfettered consumerism!). All of them discolored on rubbing the paper with a coin. Ergo, all of them contained fair amounts of BPA.

Luckily, skin does provide a decent barrier for BPA. Or maybe not, if you are fond of using alcohol based cleaners/lotions, since that enhances the absorption of the BPA into the skin layers.
A more likely route may be hand to mouth, as in eating immediately after having contacted a receipt, or handled stuff jumbled together in with receipts in your handbag, or receipts thrown in with the merchandise you just bought.

The average consumer's exposure may not be that high, but for the workers who man the cash registers (Ka-ching) day in and day out, one can only hope that the employers will do the right thing and stop using those kinds of papers for the cash registers.

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