BPA, the most famous carcinogenic plastic, is routinely used on “store and fast food receipts, airline tickets, ATM receipts and other thermal papers, [they] all use massive amounts of BPA on the surface of the paper as a print developer,” according to ScienceDaily’s discussion of a brand new study on the matter. Apparently, we are not just absorbing endocrine disrupting chemicals through our water bottles and our food: we are also being exposed to them every time we want to double-check the honesty of the cashier or effectively split the grocery bill.
I say “them” because BPA is not the only endocrine disrupting chemical which is regularly used to do everything from coat aluminum cans, sealing ships, to making our water bottles and packaging. The entire family of bisphenols, as well as many other types of plastics (Wagner et al, 2013), very slowly dissolve into our water. The problem is not that these chemicals are toxic, indeed they present a relatively new kind of danger: they interfere with what your cells understand to be real.
As I described in my text about endocrine disruptors and xenohormones:
“BPA, and other analogues –molecular mimics- of sex hormones are especially damaging, since sex hormones play a major role in cell development and growth. BPA “looks” like estrogen to your body, and thus has an effect on gene expression (which genes are “on” or “off”, copied or not copied into proteins). This may not sound like much, but the effects are actually quite shocking.
Because these signals confuse your cells, they can prevent them from “committing suicide” (apoptosis) in the event of dangerous mutations, meaning an increased risk of cancer, lead to tissue being produced incorrectly, and in general encourage “miscommunication” between cells: desynchronizing your body’s processes and leading to symptoms like motor dysfunction, deformities, immune problems, and/or infertility.”
This “cellular schizofrenia” does not even necessarily impact those consuming it as much as it then impacts their offspring. Probably the most disturbing piece of this is that these chemicals are highly active even at extremely low doses (which is why we are not looking at their toxicity, but effects on cell signalling).
This new research, undertaken at University of Missouri, indicates that even those who go the trouble of avoiding aluminum cans, bottled water, and the myriad of other products that put you in direct contact with endocrine disruptors, may have to also take the risk of not inspecting their receipts. The study also found that this risk is compounded when the participants consumed fatty foods directly after touching the receipts. Avoiding this may be impossible if you work as a cashier, that is unless you wear gloves (which is what the results of a slightly older study indicate), but for most of us: the knowledge can help us make more responsible choices. For some, this may mean doing their taxes with leather gloves, for others it may just mean not taking the receipts and not holding onto their airline tickets too tightly.