Would you like your receipt? Study says maybe not…

Research / February 6, 2015

Author: Monica Lam-Feist, BS

Monica is AlgaeCal’s Content Marketing Manager. Monica completed her studies at The University of Wisconsin-Madison where she received a B.S. degree in Life Sciences Communication and a B.A. degree in Sociology. She also received certificates in Digital Studies and Leadership. Monica was an elite athlete and played Varsity soccer for the Wisconsin Badgers, Vancouver Whitecaps and for the Canadian Women's National Team. She brings a holistic and unique perspective and pulls from her experience in athletics and health to write for AlgaeCal.

A recent study published in October suggests that handling everyday receipts (from grocery stores, gas stations, airline tickets etc.) exposes you to significant levels of BPA, a proven cancer-causing agent. In fact, the exposure is so significant that BPA can be found in almost everyone’s urine – scary!

But the real shocker is that using a hand sanitizer (or other skin products) before handling receipts, increases your BPA exposure by as much as 185 times! I’ll tell you how in just a minute.

caution-efficacy-of-calcium-supplements-on-bone-mass-in-postmenopausal-women1-300x188What is BPA and What is the Risk?

BPA stands for “Bisphenol A”, an industrial chemical used to make certain plastics and resins since the 1960’s.

It’s been found that increasing your exposure to the chemical can increase obesity rates, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, infertility and even cancer.

 Considering regulatory agencies estimate that virtually all BPA exposure comes from food and beverage packaging, it’s not something to take lightly.

What The Study Found

The study published by the journal of Public Library of Science (PLOS) was quite exhaustive. The researchers conducted four separate experiments where BPA exposure could mimic everyday situations. For instance, they had participants hold onto receipts for extended periods of time (2, 15, 30 seconds and so on), which would be typical after paying for your groceries or for jobs that handle receipts all day long.

They also had participants pick up french fries (although they didn’t eat them) after holding receipts to show how much BPA you could potentially be eating if you ordered some food, grabbed the receipt, and ate with those hands.

What most stood out to the researchers was when participants used hand sanitizer and then held onto the receipts. The results showed that their BPA levels were as much as 185 times as high as when using dry hands. Yikes!

Why might this be?

Well, hand sanitizers and other skin products such as lotions, actually contain mixtures of dermal penetration enhancing chemicals. In other words, these dermal penetrating mixtures make it easier for the lotions and hand sanitizers to really get into your skin (and make your skin soft etc. as claimed) but in doing so, increases dermal absorption up to 100 fold.

So when you use these products before handling receipts, you’re actually prepping your skin for optimal absorption of whatever you touch next.

What You Can Do to Reduce Your Exposure

Unfortunately, BPA is probably here to stay, at least for the time being. A recent report by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) examined 19 other alternatives and found that there, “is no clearly safer alternatives to BPA.” The report went on to say that, “decision makers may wish to consider alternative printing systems.”

The thought of decision makers changing printing systems seems highly unlikely. So instead of waiting for something that may never happen, it’s best to take your health into your own hands (pun intended 🙂 ).

Here’s a few simple ways you can reduce your BPA exposure:

  • Avoid receipts whenever possible. Unless you absolutely need the receipt, ask the clerk to put it in the bag or say you just don’t need one. If that’s out of the question, make sure you have dry hands and haven’t used a hand sanitizer or lotion before grabbing it.
  • Watch for Labels. With BPA becoming a growing concern, look for products labeled as “BPA-free.” Especially check canned goods as most have a BPA resin lining in them unless otherwise stated.
  • Use Alternatives. Instead of plastic bottles and containers use stainless steel or glass. This is especially important when it comes to water bottles. (TIP: A great source of BPA free water bottles for hiking and walking are outdoor adventure stores like Mountain Equipment Co-Op.)

I know this seems to step outside of the natural bone health topic that we usually focus on, but BPA actually increases the production of inflammatory cytokines and free radicals. As you know, anything that causes chronic low grade inflammation activates osteoclasts and promotes excessive bone loss. Studies are beginning to be contemplated to show these connections.




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