Thermal receipts expose us to bisphenol A: So what?

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  • Published: Mar 5, 2014
  • Author: Steve Down
  • Channels: UV/Vis Spectroscopy / MRI Spectroscopy / Proteomics / X-ray Spectrometry / Chemometrics & Informatics / Base Peak / Atomic / NMR Knowledge Base / Raman / Infrared Spectroscopy

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Paper thermal receipts remain a prominent route of exposure for humans to the estrogenic chemical bisphenol A (BPA), but gloves can protect those who are occupationally exposed. These are the conclusions of US researchers who measured BPA in the urine of volunteers who handled receipts continuously for two hours, as described by senior reporter Shelley Ehrlich from Harvard School of Public Health in Journal of the American Medical Association.

It had been reported in in 2012 that many paper products now contained bisphenol S, which has been introduced by paper manufacturers in order to replace BPA which is being restricted by legislation. Unfortunately, BPS is also now thought to be genotoxic and estrogenic but it is not yet covered by restrictive measures. However, the work by Ehrlich suggests that BPA is still presenting a problem.

The urine of the volunteers was tested by an LC-tandem-MS method, revealing that the mean urinary concentration of BPA rose from a base level of 1.8 µg/L to 5.8 µg/L. This could become a health issue for those who handle thermal receipts regularly, such as cashiers in shops. The simple protective measure of wearing gloves negated the effects of handling the receipts, leaving urinary levels the same as those of the general US population.

This research project has attracted criticism from some quarters. Notably, one blogger writing on the Competitive Enterprise Institute website declared "The only reason, perhaps, JAMA publishes this 'letter' is to attract news headlines." Angela Logomasini said "The tiny increase of BPA [ca. 3 ppb] and small study size make these 'findings' pretty much meaningless."

She was critical of the news exposure that this article received and continued "But lost in the resulting hype is the fact that BPA is used to protect public health. BPA resins that line food containers prevent development of dangerous pathogens that otherwise might produce deadly food-borne illnesses. Thanks to JAMA’s contribution to the anti-BPA hype, we may eventually see increased regulation of BPA and the loss of its life-saving and enhancing benefits.”

One counter argument to Logomasini's view is that any exposure to bisphenol A is potentially harmful, given that people will be exposed from different sources and the the efefcts will be accumulative. Given the current drive against endocrine disrupting chemicals, reports like this should not be so easily dismissed.



1. At 04:04 on Mar 13, 2014, Paul Molitor wrote:

The increase in BPA in the urine is more of a concern to the microorganisms at the waste treatment plant. BPA that is in the urine is unlikely to disrupt any endocrine function in the receipt handlers.

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