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Analytical Chemistry

Touching thermal-paper receipts could extend BPA retention in the body

Traces of endocrine disruptor bisphenol A excreted for a week after dermal contact

by Deirdre Lockwood
September 4, 2017 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 95, ISSUE 35

Credit: ESB Professional/Shutterstock
Handling thermal receipts containing the endocrine disruptor bisphenol A could leave traces of the compound in the body for a week or more.

When people handle receipts printed on thermal paper containing the endocrine disruptor bisphenol A (BPA), the chemical could linger in the body for a week or more (Environ. Sci. Technol. 2017, DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.7b03093). Jonathan W. Martin of Stockholm University and Jiaying Liu of the University of Alberta asked six male volunteers to handle paper containing isotopically labeled BPA for five minutes. The volunteers then put on nitrile gloves, wore them for two hours, removed them, and washed their hands with soap. Afterward, the researchers measured the labeled BPA and its metabolites in the volunteers’ urine regularly for two days and then once again a week later. Total BPA in the urine increased linearly over the first two days, and after a week, three of the volunteers still had BPA in their urine. In contrast, after the volunteers each ate a cookie containing labeled BPA, total BPA in their urine spiked within five hours and was fully cleared within a day. Ingested BPA is rapidly metabolized in the liver and quickly excreted, Martin says. But BPA absorbed through the skin is probably metabolized much less efficiently, which could lead to a longer and more toxic exposure.



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Susan Beem (September 5, 2017 10:37 AM)
How much handling of how much paper and over what period of time was done? Wearing nitrile gloves for 2 hours would macerate the skin allowing more time for chemicals to penetrate the skin. The results of this study should not be used to make inferences about the dangers of handling receipt paper by the general population who may only have seconds of contact via dry skin with a reciept once a day. Even a grocery clerk may transfer a reciept's BPA to the next 20 items handled in a transaction.
deborah demoulpied (September 5, 2017 11:20 AM)
Were the volunteers monitored for further BPA exposure during the entire time period? This would be important to know if aside from the skin exposure if everything else was accounted for. Thank you.
Corinna Wu, C&EN (September 8, 2017 4:54 PM)
The study only traced the isotopically labeled (deuterated) BPA and its metabolites, so any additional BPA exposure from other sources was not monitored.
Saeed Karimipour (September 6, 2017 12:12 AM)
Are there different kinds of receipt paper or do they only use thermal paper for it? because if they have different kinds of receipt paper that does not have BPA, why not just ban thermal paper from being used if it affects someones hormones that drastically? Also shouldn't they have gotten a separate group to be the ones that wore the nitrile gloves so that they can see the difference between wearing gloves and not wearing them?
carly (September 7, 2017 11:57 AM)
Yes, there are different papers. I use them in my restaurants. There are BPA free options which i don't like because they just use BPS which is still toxic just not as widely studied or discussed. The one I like is made with vitamin C. The vitamin C is the thermal element. The paper is slightly tinged yellow because of this. Also, the black of the print doesn't print as saturated or dark but is is visible and still totally readable. It is more expensive but I feel completely worth it to protect my serving staff young men and woman alike (of child rearing age) from these harmful toxins.
Michael (September 19, 2017 9:10 PM)
There is so much wrong with the methodology here that this study has no merit whatsoever from a science perspective.

Firstly, a sample size of 6? There is no way that results can be considered to have statistical significance. Also, where is the control population? There is no baseline to measure against without a control. Were the volunteers given a procedure to follow when putting on the gloves, taking them off, washing their hands to ensure consistent cleansing, etc?

Perhaps the researchers would be more productive investigating research methodologies before their next research instead of drawing unreliable conclusions from correlation within a tiny statistical sample size.
Corinna Wu, C&EN (December 4, 2017 11:26 AM)
For more details on the methodology, click on the DOI of the paper, which is linked in the first sentence.
Rebekah Davis (November 27, 2017 3:17 PM)
This is a great starting place. Other studies should now be done taking into consideration the comments. Larger sample size & no use of gloves afterwards. The subjects should carry on with life as they normally would. Shopping, unloading groceries, whatever errands would normally be done together. Then the levels tested. And then they can wash their hands ;) This is a great way to get the word out.

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