BPA from thermal paper receipts passes through the skin

Nov 05, 2010 by Lin Edwards report
Bisphenol A (BPA)
BPA. Image: Wiki Commons

Bisphenol A, or BPA, is a chemical found in the thermal paper widely used in receipts from cash registers and in some plastics and resins, and has now been shown to pass through human skin.

Three recent studies have shown the chemical BPA is absorbed through the skin, and that people who routinely have contact with receipts laden with BPA have higher than average levels of BPA in their bodies.

Animal studies have shown high doses of BPA are harmful, and because the chemical is known to mimic the effects of , some scientists advise that and babies should minimize their exposure to BPA, which is commonly found in babies’ bottles.

BPA forms part of a complex polymer used in polycarbonate destined for food or drink containers, and the linings of canned foods and drinks. It is found as a more readily absorbed free monomer in thermal paper, such as that used in cash register receipts.

In the first of the studies, published online in Chemosphere, scientists from the National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA) in Paris, France, led by toxicologist Daniel Zalko, demonstrated that free BPA is readily absorbed through the skin. They first exposed sections of fresh ear skin from pigs (which is often used as a model for human skin) to a culture containing radioactive-labeled BPA, and then repeated the experiments with small samples of excised but still living human skin.

The results showed that after three days 65 percent of the BPA was absorbed through the pig ear skin, and 46 percent diffused through human skin. Zalko said the human skin results may be conservative because the samples were not as fresh, and therefore as porous, as the pig skin samples (which were collected from an abattoir around five minutes after the pigs had been slaughtered). Both pig and human skin were able to metabolize the chemical into forms assumed to be less harmful, but the amount metabolized in the pig skin was far greater.

Their findings may explain why the levels of BPA in the general population are higher than they theoretically should be from food and drink sources. Zalko said the findings suggest it “would be smart” for people, especially pregnant women, to avoid touching thermal papers used in receipts or to wash their hands after handling them.

In a second study, carried out by epidemiologists at Harvard University in the US, team leader Joe Braun and colleagues measured BPA levels in urine samples from 389 pregnant women and then correlated the data with the occupation of the women.

The results were that cashiers had the highest concentrations of BPA (2.8 μg/g), while teachers and industrial workers had much lower levels (1.8 and 1.2 respectively). Since cashiers handle far more receipts than the general population, Braun said he was “pretty confident” BPA from the receipts was being absorbed through the skin in those women.

A similar study was also carried out on 400 pregnant women in and around Cincinnati, in the US. Leader of the research team, Frederick von Saal of the University of Missouri-Columbia said the results were unequivocal in showing BPA can go through human . Like the French study, the highest levels were found in women who worked as cashiers.

The levels found in the pregnant women were much lower than those identified in a 2009 study of factory workers exposed to BPA in Mexico, in which levels over 460 μg/g were found, and these high levels were linked to reduced sexual function in the men.

Braun said for people handling only a few receipts absorption is unlikely to be a problem, but he suggested pregnant women working as cashiers should be careful and err on the side of caution.

Explore further: Education, breastfeeding and gender affect the microbes on our bodies

More information:
-- Viable skin efficiently absorbs and metabolizes bisphenol A, Daniel Zalko et al., Chemosphere, Article in Press, doi:10.1016/j.chemosphere.2010.09.058

-- Variability and Predictors of Urinary Bisphenol A Concentrations during Pregnancy, Joe M. Braun et al., Environ Health Perspect, doi:10.1289/ehp.1002366

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User comments : 18

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Bob_Kob
5 / 5 (1) Nov 05, 2010
I wonder why all these chemicals around us are always similar to estrogen. Why not instead testosterone?
El_Nose
1 / 5 (2) Nov 05, 2010
This is pretty bad for servers and bartendedrs and anyone who works a cash register - most fast printing reciepts use thermal paper and the people responcible for overseeing those transactions are thus absorbing higher than normal quantities of this substance.... Chemistry has made life better ... unfortunately, it is the major cause of cancer. Cancer levels are astronomically higher than they were 200 years ago... and thats without taking into account the fact we tested nuclear weapons in the high atmosphere in the 20th century.

After reading the article - it states what i just wrote-- I should really read the whole article first ;-)

why not study the levels in men-- wouldn't that be more conclusive?
NotAsleep
not rated yet Nov 05, 2010
Or perhaps what you're getting at is the natural irony that things like baby bottles and receipts simulate estrogen whereas things like steak simulate testosterone
an_p
not rated yet Nov 05, 2010
I think future generations will look back in dismay for all the harmful chemicals in all our everyday plastics/ fertilizers / shampoos / sanitary products , or even when just studying or standards for prescriptive limits.
an_p
5 / 5 (1) Nov 05, 2010
also ironic -
ads by google:
Looking for Bisphenol? Please visit our marketplace .... :)
wwqq
1.6 / 5 (9) Nov 05, 2010
Chemistry has made life better ... unfortunately, it is the major cause of cancer.


Utter bollox.

The major cause of cancer is being alive; more specifically cellular metabolism, which causes on the order of 50 000 DNA damages per cell per day. The vast majority of this damage is repaired. Of that which is not repaired the vast majority of cells commit hara kiri and kill themselves. Of those that sustain DNA damage, do not repair, do not undergo apoptosis, a small number lead to cancer.

The rise in cancer rates is fully explained by 3 things. Most importantly the average life span has exploded and cancer is an age related illness; age adjusted cancer rates have fallen slightly almost across the board; there are 2 exceptions, lung cancer and skin cancer.

Skin cancer is fully explained by cheap flights to place where foolish white people can fry themselves in the sun and tanning beds.

Lung cancer is fully explained by tobacco.
googleplex
2.8 / 5 (4) Nov 05, 2010
Great news if you want a sex change on the cheap. Just apply the thermal receipt patch to your arm using duct-tape. Replace the patch each week to get a fresh dose. These patches can be obtained from your local store and are free with any purchase! For best results apply a patch to each limb.
Ironic if you wanted to sell the receipts as a product you would have to get FDA approval which would take years. But give it away for free as a hidden toxic chemical - hey go for it, the Feds don't care as long as it doesn't hit the media!
googleplex
3.3 / 5 (7) Nov 05, 2010

Utter bollox.

The major cause of cancer is being alive...

Denial is not just a river in Africa.
As you're immune to scientifically proven carcinogens/mutogens would you mind cleaning up some nuclear test sites, Chernoble, asbestos, aromatic chemical spills. You could also make huge money storing toxic waste at your home. As you clearly have unique biology would you mind swinging by the nearest cancer research hospital so we might learn what makes you so different from the rest of us. So long as you steer away from cigs and sun you will be fine.
If cancer is age related how do you explain the rise in childhood cancers? The scientific community awaits this valuable contribution.
Also can you explain to me at the atomic and quantum scale how your theory works, so we might share the nobel prize for medicine. This will overturn many decades of pier reviewed research and I am eager to learn the secrets locked in your head.
StarDust21
not rated yet Nov 05, 2010
im glad this shit is banned in canada
RealScience
4.7 / 5 (3) Nov 05, 2010
Using an endocrine distrupter in megatonne quantities is stupid.
It ranks right up there with feeding low doses of antibiotics to farm animals.

However WWGG is not entirely wrong (not worthy of a 1).
Decreased dying from other causes is indeed one (but only one) of the major reasons for greatly increased cancer rates.
bfast
5 / 5 (4) Nov 06, 2010
Stardust21, "im glad this shit is banned in canada"

As a fellow Canadian, I think you have your head firmly stuck in the sand. While Canada banned BPA in baby bottles, it hasn't banned it in plastic wrap, dental fillings, thermal cash register tape ...
damnfuct
not rated yet Nov 07, 2010
bfast, I was just thinking the same thing.
otto1932
not rated yet Nov 07, 2010
Lung cancer is fully explained by tobacco
Except for that which is caused by radon, asbestos, and all the other things which cause lung cancer.
Using an endocrine distrupter in megatonne quantities is stupid.
-Unless of course the unstated Purpose of it is to reduce the reproduction rate. See bob kobs comment at top. There were industrial alternatives available, which are now being used, but bpa was selected.
wwqq
1 / 5 (1) Nov 08, 2010
Decreased dying from other causes is indeed one (but only one) of the major reasons for greatly increased cancer rates.


Be fair now, I listed the other two reasons as well; cheap flights/tanning beds and smoking.

Age-adjusted cancer rates are flat to down across the board except for lung cancer and skin cancer.
wwqq
1 / 5 (1) Nov 08, 2010
Denial is not just a river in Africa.


Age-adjusted cancer rates are flat to down across the board with two exceptions, lung cancer and skin cancer; adequately explained by smoking and increased UV exposure.

GG, you lose, again.
wwqq
1 / 5 (1) Nov 08, 2010
To further rub googleplex's face in it. Read the chernobyl forum reports on Chernobyl. The verifiable death toll currently stands at 56. A further ~4000 could die from cancer eventually if the LNT model is correct, but there will be no way to tell.

Do you know why there'll be no way to tell? Because occuring in the same time frame a few hundred million will die from cancer by the usual cause, living a long and healthy life.

See, we have an epidemic of good health and long lives in Europe. We should return to subsistence farming; and hell why not reintroduce small pox while we're at it; that way we can enjoy the almost non-existant cancer rates a life expectancy of 35 brings.
YSLGuru
1 / 5 (1) Nov 10, 2010
Denial is not just a river in Africa.


Age-adjusted cancer rates are flat to down across the board with two exceptions, lung cancer and skin cancer; adequately explained by smoking and increased UV exposure.

GG, you lose, again.


Hate to break it to you but we are NOT living longer over all at least not in the US where BPA is quite plentiful. Life expectancy now verses 100 years ago is up only because the large differences between the number of infant deaths. When you compare how long the average person lives between now and then and leave out all those who did at birth or shortly thereafter the average life expectancy differs very little.

This is a statistics trick employed by those who would prefer we not ask "whats happening" as in the case with this BPA issue. People have been voicing concerns over BPA for years but were labeled as conspiracy theorists, wackos and the like. I guess they weren't so wacko after all.
YSLGuru
1 / 5 (1) Nov 10, 2010
What's really interesting here is the complete absence of any mention of the fact that most plastic is made using a formula that uses BPA even though other formulas for plastics exists.

When industry decided to go with a formula for consumer plastics that included BPA they knew then that BPA was an estrogen mimicker and that it would be passed on to the consumer and absorbed into the body. Why would industry take such a risk of potential lawsuits?

Why is it this story as well as most in mainstream media that discuss BPA do it from the "cash receipt" angel and choose to leave out the fact that BPA is prominent in almost all consumer plastics?

Occam's razor states the simplest explanation is more likely the correct one. With the facts about the dangers of BPA now undeniable it's hard to see the answer to the question of "why use a consumer plastics formula that uses BPA when others that do not exists" is that those who make the decisions wanted to flood the populace with BPA.

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