Internet shopping appears to be a safer in terms of BPA exposure risk because you will not touch a thermal till receipt. BPA a controversial chemical already strongly linked to a number of health complaints including heart disease is a component of the paper used to let you know how much the cost of living has gone up again!
Two studies have thrown the controversial compound bisphenol A (BPA) back into the limelight. One study found that the chemical is readily absorbed through the skin, while a second study found that people who routinely contact BPA-enriched till receipts have higher than average levels of the chemical in their bodies. These papers suggest that further management of public exposure to this chemical may be warranted.
BPA is found in most people in Western countries. Animal studies have confirmed that high doses are harmful, but some evidence that it may also be harmful at low doses has yet to convince regulators to take decisive action against the compound.
The chemical mimics the effects of oestrogen in the body, so health concerns are especially pressing for pregnant women and some scientists also advise against the use of babies’ bottles that contain BPA.
Whilst in many food and drink packages the BPA is chemically inert, in thermal till paper it is not bound and as a free monomer is easily transferred through skin.
“It would be smart to advise pregnant women to avoid or wash their hands after touching till receipts.”
To investigate levels of skin exposure, the researchers took radioactively labelled BPA and observed the movement of radioactivity through pig ear skin — a widely used model for human skin. They repeated their experiments with smaller samples of human skin.
In the pig model, about 65% of the BPA diffused through the skin. For human skin around 46% diffused through. Both types of tissue were also able to metabolize BPA.
Problem on paper
This first paper is supported by another study that took a contrasting approach. Joe Braun, an epidemiologist at Harvard University in Boston, Massachusetts, and his group looked at the urine concentrations of BPA in 389 pregnant women, and broke these data down by occupation.
Cashiers — who handle far more receipts than the general population — had the highest prenatal BPA concentrations in their urine at 2.8 micrograms per gram. By contrast, teachers had 1.8 micrograms per gram and industrial workers had 1.2 micrograms per gram.
In light of the increasing awareness of exposure in utero on long term health status it would be appropriate to suggest that pregnant cashiers do not handle thermal paper.
 Zalko D, Jacques C, Duplan H, Bruel S, Perdu E.Viable skin efficiently absorbs and metabolizes bisphenol A. Chemosphere. 2010 Oct 26. [Epub ahead of print] View Abstract
 Braun JM, Kalkbrenner AE, Calafat AM, Bernert JT, Ye X, Silva MJ, et al. 2010. Variability and Predictors of Urinary Bisphenol A Concentrations during Pregnancy. Environ Health Perspect View Full Paper