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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 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 95, Issue 35

Photo of hands removing a thermally printed receipt from a cash register.
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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