By Ramona Emerson for Allure
Clean hands are great until someone hands you a receipt. When people handled cash-register receipts after applying hand sanitizer, the level of bisphenol A (BPA) in their blood stream increased as much as tenfold, according to a new study from the University of Missouri.
It’s not entirely clear how BPA affects humans, but animal studies have shown that it can disrupt hormones that are key to brain development, says Sonya Lunder, a senior analyst at the consumer-watchdog organization Environmental Working Group. It is thought to be especially dangerous for pregnant women and children.
Thermal receipts, which are printed using heat instead of ink, use BPA as a developer. (How do you know if it’s a thermal receipt? Rub it with a coin as you would a lottery ticket. If the paper gets dark, it’s thermal: Friction causes these receipts to change color.) The BPA is dusted on top of the paper, which is particularly problematic because there’s nothing keeping it from rubbing off onto someone’s hands, says Lunder. Several years ago, the EWG was the first to test for BPA on receipts and found that two fifths of the 36 receipts they tested from major retailers like Whole Foods and CVS contained BPA.
This new study takes those results one step further by showing that the BPA is making its way into people’s bloodstreams, especially if they’ve recently used hand sanitizer, which contains chemicals that aid the absorption of the liquid (and anything else that happens to be on your skin). When people handled the receipts with dry hands, far less BPA stuck to their skin.
I wouldn’t call this study good news, but it does give you one more reason not to add another receipt to the graveyard in your bag. Lunder suggests getting an e-receipt if you absolutely need a transaction record and keeping an envelope in your purse where you can store any necessary paper receipts. “It keeps it from rubbing off on things in your purse,” she says. Finally, throw receipts in the trash instead of recycling them, since you don’t really want that BPA ending up in your new recycled oven mitts.
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