A study conducted by researchers from the University of Missouri, and later on published in the journal PLOS ONE, reveals that hand sanitizers cause the skin to absorb 100 times more of the hormone-disrupting chemical bisphenol-A (BPA).
Usually, this BPA exposure came from handling receipts printed on thermal paper issued by cash registers.
The lead author of the study, Frederick vom Saal says,
“Our research found that large amounts of BPA can be transferred to your hands and then to the food you hold and eat as well as be absorbed through your skin.”
Though it had not previously been demonstrated with BPA, some research conducted by health experts had shown that hand sanitizers can cause the skin to absorb higher levels of chemicals.
Levels High Enough To Cause Health Problems
In recent years, much attention has focused on the dangers of BPA. Aside from the receipts, this chemical can also be found in hard plastics and linings of food and beverage cans.
According to vom Saal, BPA has hormone-like properties that have been proven to cause productive defects in fetuses, infants, children, and adults. Also, when tested to rodents it develops cancer and immune and metabolic problems when exposed to this. He furthermore said that BPA from thermal papers will be absorbed rapidly into your blood and may cause increase chances of disorders such as obesity and diseases such as diabetes.
Moreover, BPA has also been linked to infertility and heart disease.
A new study was conducted wherein the participants were told to hold a receipt paper for various length of time. Before handling the paper, some participants used hand sanitizer and others ate French fries by hand. Before and after each intervention, the BPA levels in the participant’s urine, skin and blood were measured.
The result shows that receipt paper handled for 45 seconds causes the BPA levels on the skin to rise to 581 µg; 40 percent of this occurred in just the first 2 seconds. Skin levels had fallen by 27 percent after about 4 minutes. This is probably because the chemical was absorbed into the body.
Ninety minutes after touching the receipts, the average participants had urine and blood levels of 20 mg BPA/g creatinine. These levels have been previously linked to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, heart diseases and developmental abnormalities in children as well.
The urine and blood level of participants who had previously used hand sanitizer were 100 times higher than those who had not used the chemicals. Although the reason is not yet known, BPA levels increased more in women than in men.
Ditch That Toxic Hand Sanitizer!
Researchers further said that for those people handling receipts all day at work, the findings are particularly worrisome.
Frederick vom Saal explained that on the surface of thermal papers (store and fast food receipts, airline tickets, and ATM receipts), massive amounts of BPA were used as a print developer. Those hand sanitizers, soaps, hand creams and sunscreens used by consumers on their hands can extremely alter the absorption rate of the BPA found on those receipts.
Moreover, researchers stressed that those people handling receipts and then actually eat food were two times exposed to BPA – some through the skin and then some through the mouth. That’s why they recommend not to eat immediately after touching a thermal receipt to avoid BPA altogether.
Other health problems previously linked to hand sanitizer include immune dysfunction, cancer, and endocrine disruption. Aside from this, studies had also shown that it creates a bacterial imbalance on the skin and contributes to the evolution of antibiotic-resistant bacteria – increasing users’ risk of infection.