Think twice before slathering on hand sanitizer and then grabbing that cash register receipt on your way out of the grocery store, because it can actually expose you to harmful chemicals.
The outer layer of thermal receipt paper is laden with the chemical BPA, or bisphenol A, which mimics our body’s hormones. High levels of BPA can disrupt our endocrine system, which controls the release of hormones into our bloodstream.
In women, exposure to BPA has been linked to breast cancer and reproductive disorders. BPA has also been linked to erectile dysfunction in men and early puberty in girls. If you’re predisposed to certain cancers, high doses of the chemical can increase your risk of breast or prostate cancer.To make matters worse, research shows that when you use hand sanitizer and then touch a receipt you are actually increasing the absorption of harmful BPA into your bloodstream in a matter of seconds. That’s because some hand sanitizers contain mixtures of skin penetration-enhancing chemicals that can increase the absorption of chemicals such as BPA by up to 100 fold. Yipes.
The research also showed that you can transfer BPA from receipts to your food by touching one after the other with bare hands — think grabbing your receipt at a fast food restaurant and then popping a couple of French fries in your mouth. “Our research found that large amounts of BPA can be transferred to your hands and then to the food you hold and eat, as well as be absorbed through your skin,” said study author Frederick vom Saal, curators professor of biological sciences at University of Missouri in a press release:
“BPA exhibits hormone-like properties and has been proven to cause reproductive defects in fetuses, infants, children and adults, as well as cancer, metabolic and immune problems in rodents. BPA from thermal papers will be absorbed into your blood rapidly; at those levels, many diseases such as diabetes and disorders such as obesity increase as well. Use of BPA or other similar chemicals that are being used to replace BPA in thermal paper pose a threat to human health.”
Bottom line: Don’t touch or take receipts unless you need them for work expenses or tax purposes. If you have to take a receipt, put it away as soon as possible and then wash your hands before touching your face or your food.