A new study suggests that thermal paper, which is used in cash register receipts, may be a potential source of exposure to the hormone disruptor bisphenol-A (BPA).
The study is published October 22, 2014 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE
by Annette Hormann from University of Missouri and colleagues.
Results showed that when men and women handled a thermal receipt after using a hand sanitizer, there was a very large amount of BPA transferred from the receipt to the hand, resulting in a rapid increase in blood levels of BPA.
Bisphenol A (BPA) is used in a wide variety of products, and is found in almost everyone's urine, suggesting widespread exposure from multiple sources. In the study, researchers tested people who cleaned their hands with hand sanitizer and then held thermal paper receipts, and then ate French fries with their hands. BPA was then absorbed rapidly, and more BPA was absorbed by women than by men.
The outer layer of thermal receipt paper is covered with BPA or another estrogen-mimicking chemical called bisphenol S (BPS) as a print developer. Thermal paper is typically used for cash register receipts in restaurants, making BPA contamination of food from fingers and hands likely, and may have cashiers exposed to BPA at continual, high levels.
"The BPA blood levels caused by touching thermal paper are related to many diseases (for example obesity and diabetes) that are increasing in frequency as the use of BPA is increasing," said co-author Frederick S. vom Saal. "The use of BPA or other similar chemicals in thermal paper thus poses a threat to human health."