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Why Receipts and Greasy Fingers Shouldn't Mix

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"The chemicals used to make hand sanitizers, soaps, lotions, and sunscreen degrade the skin's ability to act as a barrier"

An order of French fries may be bad for your health in ways that extend well beyond the outsize calorie count. According to a new study by scientists at the University of Missouri, people who used hand sanitizer, touched a cash register receipt and then ate French fries were quickly exposed to high levels of bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical widely used to coat receipt paper.

BPA has been identified as an endocrine disrupting chemical for its ability to interfere with estrogen and other hormones. In human and animal studies, BPA exposure has been linked to adverse effects on the reproductive and neurological systems as well as increased risk for obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Some animal studies also suggest that BPA can set the stage for certain cancers, including breast and prostate cancer. Popular Among Subscribers Rand Paul Most Interesting Man Politics Time Magazine Cover The Reinventions of Rand Paul Subscribe The New Face of Indonesian Democracy Meet the New Leader of the Fourth-Largest Country in the World

The study, published in PLOS One, is the first to show how handling BPA-coated receipts can account for exposure at levels that have been shown to harm health.

Most studies of BPA exposure, including those that have informed current regulation of the chemical, have focused on exposure that happens through food or after BPA passes through the gut, explains study author Frederick S. vom Saal, Professor of Biological Sciences at the University of Missouri-Columbia.

But this study shows that skin absorption of BPA appears to lead to higher levels of biologically active BPA in the body than when the chemical is digested with food. When scientists added in two other factors-scrubbing hands with hand sanitizer and eating greasy food-the evidence points to a super-sized dose of BPA.

"The chemicals used to make hand sanitizers, soaps, lotions, and sunscreen degrade the skin's ability to act as a barrier and so act as skin penetration enhancers," says vom Saal. So BPA enters the body more efficiently than it would otherwise. Food grease and other oils can act similarly because BPA itself is fat-soluble, explains vom Saal.     

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