Is mixing BPA and Hand Sanitizer a Toxic Combination for Health?

BPA and Hand Sanitizer: a Toxic Mix With Serious Health Risks?

by Chris Kresser

Last updated on

A new study shows that using hand sanitizer (and other skin products) before handling receipts increases BPA absorption by as much as 185 times and leads to BPA levels associated with obesity, diabetes, CVD, infertility, and cancer.

Imagine the following scenarios:

  • You go to the gas station and fill up your tank. You use the hand sanitizer next to the pump to clean your hands, then grab the receipt from the payment terminal before getting back into your car.
  • You go for lunch at a fast-food or take-out restaurant. Just before ordering, you use the hand sanitizer positioned near the counter. The cashier hands your order to you with the receipt stapled on top of your bag, which you carry out with you.
  • You work as a cashier at a retail store. You keep a bottle of hand sanitizer next to the register, and use it frequently throughout the day as you ring customers up.

These scenarios aren’t uncommon; they happen millions of times each day all over the industrialized world. Recent estimates suggest that 50 million people in the USA alone eat in a fast-food restaurant each day.

That’s why I was so alarmed by a new study, published in the journal PLOS One, suggesting that using hand sanitizer prior to handling receipts can dramatically increase exposure to a chemical called BPA. (1)

What is BPA (and why should you care?)

Bisphenol-A (BPA) is a chemical that has been used in consumer goods since the 1950s. It’s found in plastic containers, food cans, DVDs, cell phones, eyeglass lenses, automobile parts, sports equipment, and in the thermal paper used for airline ticket, gas, ATM, cash register, and other types of receipts.

New study shows holding receipts for as little as 2 seconds after using hand sanitizer dramatically increases BPA exposure.

BPA is incredibly prevalent in our environment. Over 15 billion pounds of it are produced each year, and nearly all of us are exposed: according to a 2008 study, 93% of Americans have detectable levels of BPA in their urine. (2)

Why is this a problem? We’ve known for decades that BPA can mimic the effects of estrogen. The best way to think of chemicals with estrogenic activity is as a counterfeit key fitting into a loose lock. When these chemicals activate the estrogen receptor, they produce an increase in circulating estrogen, which in turn can wreak havoc on both male and female reproductive and endocrine systems.

Over 60 studies have linked BPA to a wide range of diseases, including:

  • PCOS, infertility, premature delivery, miscarriage, and other reproductive effects in women
  • Reduced libido and sperm quality, and altered sex hormone concentrations in men
  • Altered thyroid function
  • Obesity and diabetes
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Impaired liver and kidney function
  • Impaired immune function
  • Inflammation
  • Neurobehavioral deficits such as aggressiveness, hyperactivity, and impaired learning (3)

Though it’s difficult to prove causation with epidemiological research, and there is still significant controversy regarding the health effects of BPA, I believe both the volume of evidence and the magnitude of our exposure warrant caution. This is yet another situation where the precautionary principle applies. We have no biological need for BPA, and there’s considerable evidence that it may cause serious harm, so the most prudent approach would be to limit our exposure as much as possible.

How does using hand sanitizer (and other personal care products) increase your exposure to BPA?

BPA, and a related compound called BPS that also has significant estrogenic activity, are used in thermal receipts as a heat-activated print developer. Virtually all thermal receipts contain either BPA or BPS, and it has been shown that BPA is readily transferred to other materials that come into contact with receipts. (4)

Although it’s well-known that BPA can pass through the skin, regulatory agencies like the EPA have typically downplayed the risk of BPA exposure from handling receipts. However, they haven’t considered the important role that hand sanitizers and personal skin care products might play in increasing the absorption of BPA through the skin.

Hand sanitizers and other skin products (e.g. soaps, sunscreens, lotions) contain “dermal penetration enhancers” that are designed to enhance the delivery of the active ingredients they contain. Previous studies have found that dermal penetration enhancers can increase the absorption of estradiol, a chemical very similar to BPA, by as much as 100-fold. (5)

If BPA can be transferred from receipts to human skin, and hand sanitizer and other personal care products dramatically increase the absorption of BPA, then might using these products prior to handling receipts lead to potentially toxic levels of BPA exposure? That’s exactly the question the authors of the PLOS One study set out to answer.

They observed people in fast-food restaurants, food courts, and shopping malls in Columbia, Missouri. They also performed experiments in their own lab with volunteers. And what they found was, frankly, quite disturbing:

  • If hand sanitizer is used prior to holding a receipt for even a few seconds, a large amount of BPA is transferred to the skin. (Holding a receipt for 45 seconds led to maximum BPA transfer, but holding it for only 2 seconds led to absorption of 40 percent of the maximum amount.)
  • Absorption of BPA from the skin happens rapidly due to the dermal penetration enhancers in the hand sanitizer (and other skin care products). In fact, the data showed that there was 185-times more BPA transferred to a wet hand after using hand sanitizer than to a dry hand.
  • There was a “dramatic” increase in serum BPA levels after using hand sanitizer, holding a receipt, and then eating with the BPA-contaminated hand. The primary route of exposure was the thin skin in the mouth, not the GI tract.)
  • The levels of BPA measured in the urine 90 minutes after using hand sanitizer and holding a receipt were consistent with levels that have been associated with a significant increase in cardiovascular disease and diabetes (along with numerous other diseases) in humans.

Previous studies have shown that handling receipts for long periods (i.e. continuously for 2 hours, as a cashier at a retail establishment might do) leads to increased levels of BPA in urine, and studies of actual cashiers have shown that they have higher levels of BPA in their urine than the general public. (6, 7)

This is the first study, however, to highlight the dramatic impact that hand sanitizer and skin products with dermal penetration enhancers can have on BPA absorption from receipts. And it may help to explain the high levels of bioactive BPA observed in the serum and urine of humans—especially those suffering from “diseases of civilization” like obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.

Unfortunately, the solution to this problem is unlikely to come from industry or government anytime soon. A recent EPA report examined 19 alternative chemicals that could potentially replace BPA as a developer in thermal paper, and concluded that “No clearly safer alternatives to BPA were identified in this report; most alternatives have Moderate or High hazard designations for human health or aquatic toxicity endpoints.” (8) The report mentioned that “decision makers may wish to consider alternative printing systems.” Hmmm. Forgive me for not holding my breath until that happens.

Conclusions and recommendations

Perhaps someday we will live in a society that requires industry to thoroughly test a new chemical before introducing it into our environment. At the moment, that is not required. So what we’re left with is doing our best to determine the toxicity of chemicals after they are already present—and, in the case of BPA, ubiquitous—in our food supply and commercial products.

In other words, all of us (as well as our children, grandchildren, etc.) are unwitting participants in a gigantic, uncontrolled, society-wide experiment. And so far, the results of this experiment are not encouraging.

Yes, there is still disagreement in the scientific community about just how much BPA exposure is safe, and just how harmful BPA is to human health. But why should we gamble our own health and that of future generations on the hope that a chemical already known to be toxic may turn out to be a little less toxic than we feared? Given that more than 90% of us have detectable BPA levels in our urine, and that BPA is associated with chronic diseases increasing at alarming rates, shouldn’t we be doing everything in our power to better understand BPA’s effects—and protect ourselves from them if necessary?

If your answer to that question is “yes”, here are a few things you can do to reduce your exposure to BPA in receipts, and elsewhere:

  • Avoid using hand sanitizer and other skin products like sunscreen or lotion prior to handling receipts.
  • Avoid handling receipts even with dry hands for long periods of time. If you are a cashier, make sure to wear gloves.
  • Use glass and stainless steel containers at home for food storage. Be aware that the lids of Mason and Kerr brand canning jars contain BPA. There are BPA-free lids, but they still may contain chemicals with estrogenic activity, and I’ve been told they’re made with formaldehyde. Weck makes 100% glass jars that are a good alternative. Crate and Barrel sells them here. My favorite stainless steel containers are from Lunch Bots.
  • Use glass, stainless steel, or silicone instead of plastic for freezer storage. See this article for recommendations.
  • Use a stainless steel water bottle (like the Klean Kanteen) instead of plastic bottles.
  • Don’t drink bottled water from plastic bottles, especially when they’ve been exposed to sunlight.
  • Parents: use glass baby bottles instead of plastic. Evenflo is a commonly available brand you can buy at Target, Wal-Mart, Walgreens, Rite-Aid, etc. and online at Amazon and other retailers.

If you’d like to read more about BPA in plastics and other food containers, check out my previous article and podcast on this topic.

Now I’d like to hear from you. Were you aware of this connection between hand sanitizer and BPA from thermal receipts? Is this something that would affect you in your daily life? What steps are you planning to take to reduce your exposure?


Join the conversation

  1. So, literally every one of your links to your sources do not work. I would like to see the scientific evidence you have that proves your statement, but I sure am unable to find it with what you have posted.

  2. I don’t think you read the studies very well. Your article strikes me as alarmist and out of proportion.

    One study was done on hand-to-mouth transfer of BPA after using hand sanitizer. In other words, it was about BPA getting on your hands, and then onto food you eat. Nothing about absorption through skin.

    The other study was done on cashiers, who simulated an entire shift of handling receipt paper while using hand sanitizer. In this study, while blood levels of BPA rose, they were still significantly lower than those of people who had just eaten canned soup!

    People who are concerned about BPA should be paying a lot more attention to acidic canned foods than to water bottles and occasional environmental exposure. Most of the hysteria is seriously misplaced.

  3. you would not believe how many gallons of water bottles consumed by our deployed troops- and they are sitting in plastic bottles in pallets in the hot sun for weeks if not months prior to consumption ….uggh

  4. Hi Chris! Thanks for the great article. I, for one, was not aware of the receipts-BPA connections but I’m relatively new to living a healthy lifestyle.

    Question: Do you know if laser copiers and printers use BPA?

    Thanks in advance!

  5. I repair electronics, and I have to hand out thermal paper receipts to customers. Do you think lathering isopropyl alcohol on my hands would reduce BPA levels?

    I have never once used hand sanitizers on my hands, and I really don’t wash my hands. Hospitals, gyms, schools, grocery stores, and large retailers come to mind. I think hospitals and gyms would be the worse. Some gyms enforce wiping down the equipment you’ve used. Imagine placing your crotch all over that equipment and absorbing it that way.

  6. We have always been a part of an uncontrolled experiment. Our species are experimenters, we try new things all the time. A lot of those new things have devastating effects on us, but I don’t see the alternative. We have maximized evolutionary success through experimentation, stopping it is not the answer.

  7. The mason jars I use are sold as BPA free as are the plastic bags I get from Target. So does this mean they might have something worse for us than BPA?

    • Thats my exact question. If getting BPA free is worse than BPA, then Im worried about those jars. Maybe Chris can guide us on this one?
      Thank you Chris!

  8. Did anyone notice the linked article regarding the freezing of foods recommends to wrap in Aluminium foil. Chris surely you do not recommend aluminium touching any food for human consumption?

  9. Does anyone know of an accurate way to test for BPA?

    Ideally, I’d like to find a panel that tests for a variety of endocrine disrupting chemicals.

    I’ll ask my doctor if she has any recommendations, as she’s well versed in paleo and functional medicine. If I find anything I’ll try to provide an update.

  10. Chris,

    I am pregnant with two small children. What is your personal routine when it comes to outings with Sophie to places like the park, grocery stores/carts, public transportation, restaurants, etc? Or noticing that she has played with a kid who doesn’t look well? With a four year old and an almost two year old, I feel like we go through periods of virus after virus after virus, sometimes for weeks and weeks, and I start getting paranoid about germs and infection. We live in an urban environment, as opposed to the country. I don’t mind the colds as much and truly see the benefit of the immune system building, but it is the secondary infections like stubborn ear or sinus infections that get complicated, or bugs like stomach flu (not fun when EVERYONE in the house is throwing up), or even more serious flu strains or (we avoid the flu shot), or diseases like whooping cough or the measles, especially as we are expecting a newborn soon. I find myself avoiding the park and places like it, or being paranoid at the zoo, etc., not letting my kids touch ANYTHING at a Dr’s office (especially the kid’s toys), eyeing restaurant high-chairs suspiciously, noticing if any kid sniffles or coughs in 30 foot radius, etc., all because of wanting to avoid illnesses, and I know that is not the answer. I was not always like this–it has been borne out of frustration. So how do you handle that? Do you let Sophie get exposed to anything and everything so that her immune system can build, come what may, or do you have some sort of routine for hygiene after being in public places? What is a reasonable approach? I have several years of mothering ahead of me. I need a sane strategy!
    N. Boyd

  11. Thank you for an informative article. We no longer need to have receipts printed out; they can be emailed or txted. I rarely have a customer complain. I’m concerned about an overabundance of receipts in landfills. The BPA plus all the other contaminants are contaminating the planet.

  12. Another thing to consider is the use of pacifiers and plastic teethers. Some babies suck on plastic daily for the large part of their day. Like Chris said we are a part of a giant, uncontrolled experiment. And it begins way too young.

  13. Hmm. “Don’t drink bottled water from plastic bottles, especially when they’ve been exposed to sunlight.” Can you expand on this? I was under the impression that bottled water was preferred to getting it out of the tap. Are you saying that we should look at water bottled in glass? The brands out there are quite expensive and considering that everyone in my family drinks water pretty often it could really add up.

    • re: I was under the impression that bottled water was preferred to getting it out of the tap.

      That depends on the sources of each form. Bottled water can easily be sourced from municipal water, including treatment residues. Tap water might perfectly OK, such as from your own well.

    • Bottled water contains all kinds of things that leach from the plastics used–not to mention the amount of garbage bottled water generates. A better alternative is to get a carbon block water filter and refill your own stainless steel water bottles to bring with you where ever you go. That plastic taste in the bottled water is definitely not good for your body!

    • Home filtered water is best. A reverse osmosis system is best. It has an upfront cost and annual filter replacement… But cheaper than years of bottled water in both cost of bottled water, and in your health. And buying glass bottles of water regularly would be quite expensive.

      Bottled water companies are exempt from tap water standards for maximum levels of plastic chemicals that leach into the bottled water!

      I threw out all my Kleen Kanteen stainless steel water bottles because if the water sits in there for a few hours it smells like chemicals (possibly from something in the seam of the metal which goes down the inside). Now I use glass bottles with the rubber coating, and also a thermos brand stainless steel bottle with no inner seam and it never smells.

      • Reverse osmosis systems are only “best” if the system is set up to return grey water to the household, which is not standard installation. Reverse osmosis systems discard three times the water they yield.

  14. Important stuff – I’d just dispute your recommendation to can in 100% glass jars or stainless steel. Glass against glass doesn’t provide enough of a seal to protect against spoilage, including botulism. Steel cans have a plasticized lining, that typically contains BPA or BPS, not to mention that canning in actual cans requires quite a bit more equipment than canning in jars. I’m aware that canning lids contain BPA, but I still think it’s a reasonable alternative since food is not actually in contact with the lids.

    • The glass jars seem to come with rubber seals, vs. being glass on glass. We’ve already converted to all glass in our storage, and reusable cloth produce bags, so I am not going to get too persnickety about the jar lids.

      • The rubber gaskets that come with hermetic jars are not “seals.” Plus, I don’t think they will even withstand the high heat needed for canning. Preferring something old-fashioned like botulism to BPA, is not a good solution AFAIC.

  15. Thanks for contributing to the gross mis-information about BPA and plastics out there. You contribute to confusion and panic.

    The only plastic that contains BPA is polycarbonate. Polycarbonate has been removed from infant care and many other food contact markets, for years.

    Tritan plastic is BPA free, BPS free, and has been proven free of estrogenic activity. SAN plastic is also BPA free.

    Instead of causing panic, educate the people with detailed, truthful, and practical information. What are you going to do when your baby throws her glass bottle on the counter, shatters it, and cuts her hand? Clean the blood with a BPA-free rag? This article reminds me of Mother Jones. Shame on you!

    • Ah, an industry shill. I was wondering when one would show up.

      If you believe everything the industry says about plastic (including the idea that Tritan is free of estrogenic activity), I’ve got some studies the tobacco industry did proving that it’s not carcinogenic to show you.

      I prefer to draw conclusions from peer-reviewed research that isn’t industry-sponsored, myself.

  16. Hi Chris,
    Do all plastics contain BPS and/or BPA? I am just wondering about water filter pitchers and even water filter systems you might have installed in your home. The pitchers are plastic and the installed units have plastic housing and other parts. I prefer to filter all my water for myself and my pets and never thought of the actual containers possibly having these in them.
    Any insight would be greatly appreciated.

      • So better to not buy BPA free Chris? Just got a BPA free 5 gallon container for my water. I don’t think they sale glass containers in that size.
        Thank you for all the information.

        • It’s really tricky, unfortunately. Often you have to contact the company and ask if their BPA containers have BPS or any other chemical with estrogenic activity. Some are more aware than others. If they don’t know, or they obfuscate, then the answer is probably “yes”.

          • calling them for sure! I have high estrogen issues, misbalanced hormones….I cut off food containing estrogen, no way Im putting more of this unwanted estrogen in my body.
            Thank you so much Chriss

          • I called the company and they have no idea what BPS is. I assume they aren’t BPS free at all. Going to change to glass containers.

        • Actually glass bottles in 3, 5 and 6 gallon sizes are easily available. Use the term “carboy” and shop your local homebrew store. They typically do not have screw-top closures though, so you’ll need to use cork.

  17. Is there any research on BPA or other chemicals in plastic gloves? And is the BPA in the paper or in the ink? I sometimes work with a machine that produces print outs. Luckily (I thought!) it doesn’t have the glossy receipt paper, but the more normal old fashioned paper. Would that be better?

  18. I just bought a box of Mason jars, now that I know the lids aren’t BPA free, would it help if I put a coffee filter ( unbleached and no chlorine) around the mouth of the jar and then the lid on?
    Thank you for your help and valuable information.

    • You can buy BPA-free lids for Mason jars. But if the food isn’t coming into contact with the lids, the exposure would be minimal.

      • thank you!
        And for 5 gallon wAter containers is there a brand/ type that is ” safe” besides glass? I re-fill my BPA free container twice a week but after reading your article about BPA free products I don’t want to use it no more. I have hormone disbalance and I’ve read quimicals in plastic contribute to hormone issues.

        • This doesn’t answer your question but I wanted to mention that glass 5-gallon containers are available, in case you weren’t aware of that. You can find them online and also in home-brew shops. The best search term would probably be glass carboys. I think they also make a 6-gallon container, plus handles and carts to make maneuvering them easier (they’re heavy).

  19. I used to work for a large corporate where select investors would come in and ask us, “What’s the best replacement for wood?” And, our head sustainability person would answer, “The best replacement for wood is wood. It’s renewable, produces oxygen, and is completely biodegradable.” This investor would argue time and again that plastic is a better replacement. Then our team developed a cost benefit analysis to show the actual results, which were astounding.

    The second best natural product to natural fibers and wood is GLASS. We’ve been hard-core glass converts since our kids were young. The amount of plastic of all types being thrown at children is down-right frightening. We eat off of china and ceramic, drink from glass or ceramic, and use metal utensils or bamboo (bought in bulk and some stored in the car). It can be done. Totally done. And, I don’t accept bpa-receipts… most companies let you return product even without a receipt nowadays if it’s needed.

    Good luck to all. Take control of your and your family’s plastic exposure yourself.. the government will be way too late and a generation of infertile youth are awaiting our future.

  20. The study looked at BPA absorption immediately after using the hand sanitizer, while the hands were still wet. For the sake of all grocery store customers who sanitizing wipes to clean cart handles and their own hands before doing their shopping, it’d be good to know if BPA absorption is still increased once the hands have dried.

    • That is one thing the researchers mentioned needs more investigation in their conclusion. But in their study dry hands absorbed 185-times less BPA than hands that were wet after using hand sanitizer. Studies have shown that continual handling of receipts with dry hands can elevate BPA levels in urine, but I don’t think touching a receipt briefly with dry hands is likely to be a major concern. The question, as you say, is how long lasting is the effect of the dermal penetration enhancers?

  21. Is there a list of known “dermal penetration enhancers” so we can avoid them in all products? Does anyone know what the specific ingredients are? I don’t use HS but use lotions and regular soaps sometimes especially in the office.

    • Hi Grace and Chris,
      Some of the ingredients that I do know of are the Glycols, such as Butylene Glycol, Pentylene Glycol and Propylene Glycol. They are in a lot of products for skin use because they perform other functions. They are humectants that draw moisture to our skin to keep it hydrated (which isn’t a great thing if you live in a dry desert climate with hardly any moisture in the air to draw from), they are solvents that help to dissolve other ingredients in formulation and they also improve freeze/thaw abilities.
      MSM is a form of sulfur that is present in all living things, without which we wouldn’t be able to live. You can take it as a supplement and it can also be put into cosmetic products.
      Unfortunately a lot of preservatives can be penetration enhancers also, but I would have to say, in my opinion, that to use a product without a broad spectrum preservative is inherently more dangerous than using products with the small amounts they contain. There can be upwards of 100,000 microbes in 1 ml of water and to the naked eye you would not be able tell. So if a product contains water or water soluble ingredients (i.e. plant extracts, aloe vera, hydrosols or distillates), along with oils or oil soluble ingredients they need to be well preserved.
      I do disagree with the use of antibacterial cleaners in general, such as Triclosan. It is normal for our skin to have certain microbes and bacteria present. It’s a far better bet to just use soap and water or products without antibacterial ingredients.
      There are other ingredients that enhance penetration but those are some that immediately come to mind that are common in products.

      • A possible antibacterial solution sourced entirely from a natural source is Propolis. Combined with beeswax it is used by the bees to protect aganst contaminants in the hive, as well as a preservative. It also is a pretty good glue.
        I have used my own bees propolis & wax in a cream (adding Olive Oil or Coconut oil to soften. Seems to provide good protection.
        Any thoughts?
        I wish you could test these in your lab. Make sure you source your samples from Beekeepers who primarily practice natural/ chemical free beekeeping.

  22. I am wondering if this study used conventional/drugstore-brand hand sanitizers, and if there would be a difference when using a purely alcohol-based hand sanitizer like EO, or essential oil based sanitizer like Clean Well. Do these ‘natural’ hand sanitizers contain the absorption enhancers like the conventional brands? Also, this may sound like a silly question, but what if one uses the sanitizers AFTER handling receipts? I have been doing this SPECIFICALLY to try to clear my hands of BPAs or similar compounds from receipts for a while now!

    • The study used Purell hand sanitizer. The abstract of this study lists some of the dermal penetration enhancing chemicals that have been studied and used.

      Some BPA is passed to even dry hands when handling receipts, so I probably wouldn’t use hand sanitizer afterward because it could potentially increase the absorption of that BPA into the skin.


    I’ve known about this dangerous combo of BPA and hand sanitizers for a few months. There are BPA-free receipts. Good Earth, the natural foods store in Fairfax, California uses them. Of all of the comments, the one that struck home for me is the fact that BPA is used in dental materials. I sought out a very aware dentist, but I’m not sure he knows about this and will make sure he does. Great string of comments and important article.

  24. Something I have noticed this year, with heavy use of hand sanitizer, is my hands are cracking and itchy in this cold, Michigan weather. It’s not a problem in summer. My new job has me outdoors more, and I often use the sanitizer to “clean-up” after coming inside (6-12 times a day).

  25. I never use hand sanitizer even though my employer has huge bottles of it scattered around the workplace. And yes, I knew that receipts are dangerous and barely touch them. I toss them into the store bag and don’t touch them again unless I need to return something. I pressure can my own dried beans so that we don’t have to deal with the plastic can lining. But then again I eat store-bought yogurt that comes in plastic cups and store my frozen foods in plastic. *sigh* It’s crazy hard to eliminate ALL sources of BPA.

    • I agree Laurel. When grocery shopping the other day, I thought I might eliminate using the apple sauce squeeze packs that I put in my daughter’s lunches for school by buying a big jar of it and doling it out in servings for her. Then I realized the big “jar” of apple sauce is made of plastic and what would I put the servings in? Little plastic cups w/plastic lids! Oy! What a dilemma we have here!
      There has to be a better way. These plastic manufacturers need to be regulated on what they are allowed to use, chemical wise, in their products, so that maybe then they will be forced to test the chemicals for absolute safety & possibly come up with something that is safe.

  26. I would add that BPA is also in some dental materials like some composite fillings and sealers. Talk about continual exposure into the tissues of the mouth! Find a holistic/biological dentist who has this awareness and who does materials testing to find compatible materials for your particular biochemistry.

    • Beth, BPA exposure is not the only reason to go to a holistic dentist. I don’t have time to go into all the details, but just let me say don’t EVER have a root canal performed & if you have them already, get them removed ASAP, especially if you are having health issues!!!
      Just Google Dr. Weston Price and root canal dangers for more info.
      I will NEVER go to a “regular” dentist again!

  27. Good information to have but (as Chris acknowledges) there really isn’t any solid evidence that BPA is so harmful. Not that I won’t be trying to avoid it. But sometimes it seems like jeez, we do have to live on this planet.

    • The evidence is accumulating and I’m becoming more convinced that it is an issue. As I said in the article, this is a situation where the precautionary principle applies. We don’t need to go crazy and pull gloves out of our pockets or purse before the cashier hands us a receipt (assuming dry hands), but we should certainly avoid using skin products with dermal penetration enhancers before handling receipts, and people who work in retail need to be aware of this issue.

  28. Thanks for the news on this study! I’ve been avoiding hand sanitizer for years now because I doubt most bacteria I encounter on a daily basis can be more dangerous for me than the chemicals in the sanitizer. I knew about the antibiotic in it, but hadn’t thought about something like dermal penetrators! This study raises the issue that these dermal penetrators could be exposing us to so much more than just BPA! Imagine someone who wears a daily moisturizer that contains these, then walks around a city with smoggy air full of carcinogens. They’ve just increased their risk of skin cancer… And once again, the marketing story on so many of these industrial skin & hair products is that they’re ‘healthy’ and ‘natural’ because they contain plant extracts. Tea tree essence doesn’t cancel out sulfates! But so many people feel that they desperately need hand sanitizer, lotion, shampoo, and all this stuff… What happened to plain old soap, water, and vinegar?

    • re: … ‘healthy’ and ‘natural’ because they contain plant extracts.

      When they really do contain botanicals, I suspect this actually increases the need to load the product up with antibiotics, to prevent undesired organisms from growing in it on the shelf.

      Of course, terms like natural, organic, healthy, botanical and even hypoallergenic are apparently completely legally meaningless, and no assurance of safety whatever.
      might be a place to start on dealing with that.

  29. I am gradually transitioning to using cash more, so the need for a store receipt diminishes considerably. The other thing that helps reduce exposure is to encourage vendors to use something like Square, so that your receipt comes through a text or email (little more secure). I use Square for face-to-face contact in my business.

  30. Also, don’t forget the coffee connection. Pod coffee makers and their coffee pods are plastic-based. And conventional takeout coffee cups have a thin plastic interior coating into which scalding hot liquid is poured.

    • re: … conventional takeout coffee cups have a thin plastic interior coating into which scalding hot liquid is poured.

      Bring your own tumbler. Starbucks, for example, not only serves in this manner, they provide a 10¢ discount. If not available, at least immediately decant into your own tumbler – vacuum-insulated stainless steel is worth a look.

  31. Well, I guess I am much more “dirty” than I thought.

    I just dont wash my hands that many times a day…

    Is it like that everywhere or just in the US, that washing your hands so many times a day is so common?!

  32. I use Silver Shield from Nature’s Sunshine or ASAP Silver Gel from American Biotech. Stays on the skin for 4 hours and only kills bad bacteria and not the good.

    • That’s not really how antiseptics work, unfortunately. Unless the markers are highly highly specific (like a targeted antibiotic, and even then we’re pushing it), they are going to kill anything susceptible, which, I’m sorry to say, is definitely going to include “good” bacteria. “Good” bacteria come in both gram+ and gram-, coccal, rod, and different surface markers. You can’t differentiate as easily as you think, and the companies are lying to you if they say they can.

  33. I have just moved from Texas back to Europe, Norway. I never understood the need in the US to have hand sanitizer absolutely everywhere you go. Here in Norway it’s nowhere to be seen & everyone is just fine! Kids are healthy & happy, this artical is another really solid reason to remove HS from society, hospitals yes a very good idea no real need anywhere else.

    • Never forget, plain old soap and water are the best and least expensive way to wash hands. In acupuncture we are constantly washing out hands and I do not want to use a chemical product to do so. Also, I have the clerk toss the receipt into my bag of purchases. Then I only use Shaklee skin products for my complexion to avoid chemicals and at 77 I don’t look my age, my skin is clear and I constantly get compliments. Other than work, no need to wash hands often nor take showers/baths every day! Give the body a chance to produce its natural oils!

  34. Please confirm, phrase not clear …
    “The primary route of exposure wasn’t the thin skin in the mouth, not the GI tract.) ” – was absorption through the oral mucosa or lower down in the GI tract (ie after you’ve swallowed the BPA).

    • That was a typo, thanks for bringing it to my attention. It should say “was the thin skin of the mouth”. I’ve updated it.

  35. What are your thoughts on plastic Britta water filters (to filter or not to filter through plastic before decanting into a stainless steel container) and coffee filter machines with plastic components?

    • I make my own hand sanitizer with ever clear and any essential oil. Just shake & pour into a very small glass spray bottle. (Whole foods carries strong, small cobalt colored bottles) Why use hand san at all? I have seen too many people leave public bathrooms without washing their hands. Yuk.

      A reverse osmosis under sink water purifying still seems to be the best solution for water filtration. They remove toxins like fluoride, chlorine & more. Systems like Britta don’t remove fluoride, which nobody should ingest systemically just to benefit teeth. (Some commenters were wondering). If only someone would create an affordable reverse osmosis system w/ all stainless steel & no plastics!

  36. Chris,
    Great info here. Good reminder about the dangers of BPA’s. I feel that these concerns have been brushed under the rug in the last couple of years.
    One comment – LunchBots don’t recommend putting their stainless steel lunch boxes in the freezer. Any other good alternatives?

    • I just updated that bullet point. Thanks for the heads-up on Lunch Bots. We use glass containers for freezer storage ourselves.

      • I have never been able to freeze liquids in glass. Two days later I remove shards of glass from my freezer and throw out the glass-coated cylinder of ice. I ALWAYS leave plenty of head space, at least an inch, and screw the cap very loosely. I’ve tried refrigerating overnight before trying to freeze, I’ve tried freezing warm. Every single time, the jar shatters. The ice expands horizontally faster than it can rise vertically in the jar. How are you able to freeze liquids in glass?

    • Lifefactory makes very nice glass food storage containers that are not only freezer safe, but freezer -to -oven safe (without the lid.)

  37. Thank you for pointing out that the AHB and other topical preparations have absorbtion enhancing ingredients.

    As someone who uses alcohol-based handrub around 150 times a day as part of my job as a phlebotomist, I’m curious why people need to use AHB’s instead of just washing their hands if they’re concerned about what’s on them.

    I wash my hands before handling or eating food, after using the toilet (but not after I’ve touched the doorknob, ha ha) at home and after I’ve sneezed at work. I don’t see the need to use AHB in these situations as they are just a few times a day.

    The reason I use AHB when drawing blood is that time is limited. We are obliged to do this 4 times for each patient. I see the patients using this stuff after I’ve drawn their blood when their hands have not come into contact with anything. Seems to be some OCD ritual or they’ve been brainwashed by TV ads.

    When I go hiking, I don’t wash my hands at all the whole time so if it’s a 10 day hike, I haven’t washed my hands for 10 days. I think they enjoy the break.

    For years now, I’ve been asking the cashier to keep the receipt due to the BPA/BPS and sometimes I explain why if I feel they’re receptive or interested. So that’s been on about 2 occasions. Now I’ll add this extra information and let my colleagues know as well. Recently our hospital was audited for hand hygiene and we phlebotomists performed the highest rate of compliance (>80%) of all the health professionals.

    • The other times I need to make sure my hands are clean is before I touch my eyes or inner nose (if you know what I mean…). And we need to wash our hands if we’ve touched these places or our skin surfaces e.g. mouth at work. But I wouldn’t use AHB before I touch my eyes etc.

    • I’ve asked cashiers on numerous occasions if they know if their receipt paper contains BPA since it disrupts hormones. I also mention that about 40% of stores have this, so it’s optional and can be easily fixed. The cashiers are invariably very interested to find out, and motivated to get it sorted out because they touch them all day long.

      • There is an alternative to BPA receipt paper, but even those contain endocrine disrupters. Just like the BPA-free plastic bottles and such, those products still contain BPS and other questionable health risky compounds. Cashiers should just use gloves.

        • re: Cashiers should just use gloves.

          I wonder how many are prohibited from doing so by management because it might upset the [clueless] customers.

          cust: Why are you wearing gloves? No food is served here.
          cash: Because the receipt I’m handing you is seriously toxic.

          I’m sensing looming class actions here, on multiple fronts.

  38. Another reason to make your own hand sanitizer! I make mine from witch hazel or plain ol’ water with naturally antimicrobial essential oils. Does a great job of cleaning up!

    • re: Another reason to make your own hand sanitizer!

      I take it as another reason avoid using HS except when absolutely necessary (and gloves aren’t an alternative). Routinely nuking the skin biome is likely to turn out to not be such a great idea.

      re: I make mine from witch hazel or plain ol’ water with naturally antimicrobial essential oils.

      That’s certainly infinitely better than commercial preps loaded with triclosan, parabens, and sold in bpa/s-contaminated containers, but it does have some considerations. The witch hazel will cause some of the AB to penetrate the skin and perhaps become systemic. Does it adversely affect gut biome? (I dunno) Also, with some natural AB oils, like tea tree, chronic use can eventually result in an allergic reaction (it did for me).

  39. Chris,

    What about water that comes in PETE bottles, such as Evian?

    And regardless of the type of plastic, does pouring the water into a glass make any difference compared to continuously taking a sip directly from the plastic bottle?



    • re: What about water that comes in PETE bottles, …

      PETE is resin code /1\. It can be made without bpa or bps, but I would look for a specific claim to that effect.

      Resin codes /2\ (HDPE), /4\ (LDPE) and /5\ (PP) are generally considered safer, but aren’t as common in retail single-serving water bottles.

      re: … does pouring the water into a glass make any difference compared to continuously taking a sip directly from the plastic bottle?

      It won’t change whatever’s already in the water, of course, but eliminates oral contact with the plastic. Value? Beats me.

      I’m beginning to think that drinking anything from cans is unwise, both due to bpa/bps in the can liner, and needless oral contact with elemental aluminum on the top. Beverage cans have to have polymer linings, or the usually acidic contents would eat through in the warehouse.

      Glass is your best bet, and unfortunately glass that hasn’t been recycled intact, as it would have been washed with really nasty chemicals, residues of which are apt to be present.

      • In the excellent new book called Nourishing Broth by Sally Fallon and Kaayla Daniel, they mention that glass is preferable for broth storage. They add that for plastic, use containers with a rating of 1, 2, 4, or 5, and that plastic containing BPA is rated 3, 6, or 7, and to cool the broth beforehand. (They also explain a technique for reducing broth if storage space is an issue, and tons of other useful info + recipes.)

  40. re: Avoid using hand sanitizer and other skin products like sunscreen or lotion prior to handling receipts.

    Avoid using HS at all, unless you know it doesn’t contain needless antibiotics (like triclosan). Plus, even if it doesn’t contain AB, it came in a plastic bottle or bag, and likely has its very own bpa or bps dose.

    Where e-receipts are offered, use them. When return requiring an original receipt is unlikely, have the clerk hold it for a phone foto and don’t take the paper. Let them know why. Have a place to store such receipts as you must retain, and put nothing else there. I’m tempted to suggest wearing food processing gloves, but they are made of plastic and ….

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