People handling shopping receipts on a regular basis may want to avoid using hand sanitiser. New research suggests the combination can increase absorption of the hormone-mimicking chemical BPA. The study found that bisphenol A — or BPA — on shopping receipts printed on thermal paper was easily transferred from hand to food after the use of hand sanitiser, meaning it could be absorbed through the gut as well as the skin. The results of the US and French study are published in PLoS ONE. “We conducted this study to mimic aspects of the behaviour of people in a fast-food restaurant where we have observed people using hand sanitiser and handling a thermal receipt for variable periods of time prior to picking up and eating food with their hands,” the authors say. “In both men and women there was a dramatic increase in serum uBPA after using hand sanitiser with dermal penetration enhancing chemicals and then holding thermal receipt paper and eating French fries with the BPA-contaminated hand.” Hand sanitiser, as well as other skin care products, contain chemicals that can increase skin penetration of BPA by up to 100 times. Volunteers were asked to apply hand sanitiser, then hold a thermal receipt for varying lengths of time, after which some had their hands tested for BPA levels, while others had urine and blood samples taken both from the arm that held the receipt, and from the other arm. In addition, some volunteers were asked to hold a hot chip in the BPA-and-hand-sanitiser exposed hand for 10 seconds, then the chips was either tested for BPA levels, or eaten. Researchers found that the use of hand sanitiser led to much higher levels of BPA being found on the volunteers’ hands than was found on dry hands. They also found a surge in blood and urine BPA levels in the 90 minutes after volunteers held the receipts and ate the chips. “BPA exhibits hormone-like properties and has been proven to cause reproductive defects in foetuses, infants, children and adults as well as cancer, metabolic and immune problems in rodents,” say the researchers. “This high level of urine total BPA collected 90 min after using hand sanitiser and holding a thermal receipt has been associated with a significant increase in the likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.” However pharmacologist and toxicologist Dr Ian Musgrave, senior lecturer in pharmacology at the University of Adelaide, says these serious health effects of BPA exposure would only come from substantially higher concentrations of BPA and for much longer periods of exposure than was observed in the study. “Even if you’ve got hand sanitiser on, the concentrations are very low and it’s broken down very rapidly,” says Musgrave. Musgrave says the total levels of BPA recorded at the 60 minute mark in the study were around two-thirds of the median levels observed in the general US population. “The conditions used in this experiment are quite unlike any realistic use of thermal paper,” he adds. “The subjects held thermal paper in hands wet with hand sanitisers that had high skin penetration for four minutes, then immediately handled and ate food. Even under these extreme conditions, the BPA levels in the subjects blood all remained well under levels shown to have a biological effect, and was quickly eliminated from the blood. Subjects with dry hands who held the receipts for the same long time showed no change in blood or urine BPA.” However, he suggests that people handling thermal receipts on a regular basis, such as those operating checkouts, could consider cleaning their hands with products other than hand sanitisers.
ABC Science News, 23 October 2014 ;http://www.abc.net.au/news/ ;