A new study by researchers at the University of Missouri in Columbia reveals that people who used hand sanitizers, handled cash-register receipts and then ate French fries were quickly exposed to high levels of bisphenol A (BPA). BPA, commonly used to coat cash-register receipt paper, is an endocrine disruptor that has been linked to a long list of health problems, including various cancers, and has been banned in Canada and the European Union for use in baby bottles. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has warned of the risks BPA exposure poses to fetuses, infants and young children, and has required that the chemical be removed from baby bottles and sippy cups (although it can still be used in other products that have contact with food items). Published on Wednesday, the Missouri study is the first to suggest that touching receipts coated with BPA after using hand sanitizer and then eating greasy foods such as French fries can actually result in higher levels of the chemical being absorbed into the body. Previous research into BPA looked at direct exposure via food and after passage through the intestinal system. “The chemicals used to make hand sanitizers, soaps, lotions, and sunscreen degrade the skin’s ability to act as a barrier and so act as skin penetration enhancers,” said Frederick vom Saal, Ph.D., a biological sciences professor at the university.
The study measured how much of the chemical was absorbed by people who only touched a BPA-coated receipt for about two seconds. After exposure through the skin and mouth (via the greasy food), the chemical was found in their blood and urine within 90 minutes, the researchers stated. Some industry groups have criticized recent studies reporting health risks from BPA exposure. For example, the American Chemistry Council (ACC) took issue with a study published Feb. 25, 2014, in the Journal of the American Medical Association entitled, “Handling of Thermal Receipts as a Source of Exposure to Bisphenol A.” The ACC’s criticism focused on the study being too limited and noted that the levels of BPA it found were “well below safe intake levels established by government regulators around the world.”