Sunday, 26 October 2014

Bisphenol A or BPA - Cash Register Paper and Dangers

Bisphenol A, or BPA, is a chemical that is added to plastics during their manufacture in order to harden them. Products containing BPA include the polycarbonate used to make some drink bottles and the epoxy resin coatings used to line food and drink cans. Bisphenol A is also used in some types of dental fillings. Unfortunately, the chemical can leach out of products and enter our body, where it may cause harmful effects. New research indicates that under certain conditions we may absorb a significant amount of BPA from the thermal paper that is used to make cash register receipts.

Choosing a safe drinking bottle is important.
Photo by Marek Otolski at
BPA mimics the action of estrogen and is therefore classified as an endocrine disrupter. The endocrine system consists of the collection of hormones in our body and their activity. The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) has said that BPA is safe for most of us because we are exposed to very low levels of the chemical. They do say that there is some uncertainty about the safety of the chemical to fetuses, newborns and young children, however.

Studies performed with animals have shown harmful effects of BPA on the brain, reproductive organs and behaviour. Some studies have also shown an increase in the risk of cancer in animals. It's important to remember that the studies were done with lab animals, not humans, but they are a cause for concern. Two research projects have found a link between high BPA levels in the body or urine of children and obesity, but this correlation needs to be explored in more detail.

New research has added further concerns about BPA safety. BPA can be absorbed through the skin. Scientists at the University of Missouri have discovered that using certain skin care products greatly increases the speed of absorption of bisphenol A from cash register receipts. One of these products is hand sanitizer. There has been some discussion about the significance of this problem, however. Cashiers and other people who use hand sanitizer multiple times in a day may be most at risk.

It might be a good idea to take steps to reduce our exposure to BPA whenever possible. Heating plastic increases leaching of BPA, so it's important to keep polycarbonate containers and bottles out of microwave ovens and dishwashers and also to keep them away from sunlight. Choosing containers made of a BPA-free material would also help. Examples include stainless steel, glass and polypropylene. Avoiding canned foods or using only those whose containers are free of BPA would also reduce exposure to the chemical. Since there is some uncertainty about BPA's safety, it seems like a good idea to avoid it.