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Receipt-handling may boost cashiers’ exposure to hormone-disrupting chemicals: study

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Toronto — Handling receipts may boost cashiers’ exposure to bisphenol A and bisphenol S – two chemicals with possible links to cancer and other adverse health effects – results of a recent study from Canadian advocacy group Environmental Defense shows.

Two members of the Environmental Defense staff, along with the co-authors of the book “Slow Death by Rubber Duck,” avoided known sources of the chemicals for two weeks. The participants then had BPA and BPS levels in their bodies measured before and after holding receipts for 17 minutes – the estimated amount of time a cashier handles receipts during an 8-hour shift.

Findings showed that both BPA and BPS levels rose significantly after handling the paper. BPS levels increased more than BPA levels in each participant, climbing by an average of 67.1 times. For one participant who applied hand sanitizer before the experiment, BPS level was 115.4 times greater after handling the receipts. This outcome supports previous research showing that hand sanitizers increase skin absorption of bisphenols from receipts.

“To see the levels of BPA and BPS in my body grow upwards of a hundredfold just from holding receipts is mind-boggling,” Muhannad Malas, manager of Environmental Defense’s toxics program and a study participant, said in a Feb. 7 press release. “It is even more alarming that this is happening in the bodies of hundreds of thousands of women and teenage cashiers who are more biologically vulnerable to the effects of these chemicals.”

BPA is used in food and beverage cans, plastics, and receipts printed on thermal paper. According to past research, the chemical has been linked to breast and prostate cancer in adults. Although BPS has been used as a BPA replacement in some products, the chemical also has been found to disrupt hormones, the study states. Both chemicals have been linked to reproductive issues.

The researchers recommend retailers use bisphenol-free thermal paper, provide e-receipts or give cashiers nontoxic protective gloves to wear. Cashiers should:

  • Fold receipts with the printed side facing in; the backs of receipts often are not coated with bisphenols.
  • Refrain from using hand sanitizers.
  • Wash hands thoroughly during and after shifts, especially before eating.

The study was published online Feb. 7.

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