I guess I’m supposed to get excited about all the holiday shopping going on and the deals you can get on days like Black Friday. But to me it just means it takes longer to get the same things done. The lines, the crowds... and the discounts don’t thrill me. I’d rather be somewhere else.
But if you do go shopping, there’s something you should know about your health.
I’m talking about the little slip of paper you tuck into your pocket or purse every time you buy anything. From gas to all those Christmas presents you’re getting for all your friends and family this week.
That receipt is most likely covered with bisphenol A (BPA) – the cancer-causing, estrogen-mimicking chemical.
Paper receipts are coated with BPA to get the ink from the receipt printer to develop on the paper. Problem is, BPA doesn't stay on the receipt, making it easy to be absorbed by anyone handling the paper.
What’s worse is that a new study found that BPA transfers readily from receipts to skin and can penetrate the skin to such a depth that it cannot be washed off.1
BPA is dangerous, even in small amounts. Studies show that it may cause cancers, diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and more.
Nearly every modern register uses this kind of paper. And every one of those receipts, according to new research, contains from 250 to 1,000 times more BPA than a plastic water bottle or soda can lining. Several states, and Canada and Europe, have banned using BPA in some of those kinds of products.
Two other new studies looked at how much of the BPA from each receipt gets from your skin into your bloodstream.
One looked at 15 different types of paper products. including thermal receipts, flyers, magazines, tickets, mailing envelopes, newspapers, food contact papers, food cartons, airplane boarding passes, luggage tags, printing papers, business cards, napkins, paper towels, and toilet paper, collected from several cities around the world.
Thermal papers accounted for 98% of the BPA you are exposed to.
The second study says that you absorb as much as 60% of the BPA you get on your skin.2
Fortunately, there are some good ways to avoid taking in BPA while you’re doing your seasonal shopping.
First, the easiest way to avoid getting BPA on your hands is to decline getting a receipt. If you don't need a receipt, leave it and ask the cashier not to print it if possible. For many small purchases and unless you're purchasing something you may want to take back, you probably don’t need one anyway.
Second, shop at stores that don’t have thermal printers that use BPA.
The Environmental Working Group’s research shows that some of the stores that use BPA-containing receipts in at least some outlets include McDonald's, CVS, KFC, Whole Foods, Wal-Mart, Safeway and the U.S. Postal Service.
Receipts from some major chains including Target, Starbucks and Bank of America ATMs issued receipts that were BPA-free or contained only trace amounts.3
Third, handle your receipts as little as possible, and make sure you wash your hands the right way when you get home. Washing your hands is one of the quickest, safest, easiest and most overlooked things you can do to protect your health on many levels. Unfortunately, few of us do it properly. Keep these three things in mind:
You don’t need a special soap. Expensive antibacterial soap is a waste of money and can contain toxic chemicals. Same goes for hand sanitizers.
Ordinary, plain, unscented soap is the best. It kills just as many microbes and bacteria as antibacterial soap. A U.S. FDA advisory committee found that use of antibacterial soaps provides no benefits over plain soap and water.4
Your choice of hot or cold water makes no difference. For comfort, I like warm water.
The length of time washing your hands is important. Twenty seconds is the optimum length – that’s about the time it takes to sing the “Happy Birthday” song – twice.
Make sure you rinse the soap off your hands with running water and dry them well – preferably on a disposable paper towel.
To Your Good Health,
Al Sears, MD