Worried About BPA? Play It Safe.

Patient Expert

_A study published last fall on the Web site of the National Center for Biotechnology Information (a division of the National Institutes of Health and National Library of Medicine) draws an interesting (and potentially scary) connection between three everyday behaviors most of us will find familiar.  _

You've been to the park with the grandkids. They're hungry. You decide to stop at a fast-food place on the way home. Yeah, their mom won't like it, but what are grandmas for, right?

Before the kids tumble out of the car, you pass around the hand sanitizer. Once they're done carefully rubbing it into their hands, you use some, too. You enter the restaurant, and place your order. The cashier hands you your receipt – #24.

Your number is called, and you find a booth. You set down your piled tray, dump French fries out of their bags, unwrap your burger. You pick up a couple of fries, and…

Did you know that as soon as those fries go into your mouth, there's every chance you're raising your BPA level precipitously?

What's BPA?

Bisphenol A (BPA) is a chemical common in many of the manufactured products we come in contact with every day – primarily food and beverage packaging. It's been in the news in recent years – remember the call for avoiding plastic in microwaves, and not using BPA in baby bottles? Past research has linked BPA to a range of health issues, including diabetes, heart disease, and breast and prostate cancer.

You know you can't entirely avoid this chemical; it's just in too many places. But last fall's study pointed out that a chief source of BPA, beyond packaging, is thermal receipts: the printed slip of paper you get from the gas pump, at your library, or at most fast food restaurants. The EPA has called for thermal receipt technology to be changed to something that doesn't include BPA; but thus far, a safer chemical hasn't been found.

The point of the study wasn't only that thermal receipts contain BPA, however; it was that hand sanitizers can enhance BPA absorption from these receipts, raising blood levels of BPA precipitously.

Use hand sanitizer; grab your receipt; eat your burger. The BPA from the receipt is absorbed into your skin, thanks to the sanitizer; and what's not immediately absorbed is ingested, thanks to you touching your food.

Now, I'm certainly not saying that this chain of common events puts you at risk for breast cancer. The data to make that connection simply doesn't exist. The most current research shows that the low levels of BPA found in most Americans put them at no risk for any adverse health issues.

But the research continues. If you're at all concerned with BPA, and are trying to avoid it – tell the cashier at the takeout place "No thanks, I don't need it" when she tries to hand you your receipt. And if you need the receipt, wash your hands – with soap and water, not sanitizer – after handling it, and before eating your food.

See more helpful articles:

Top 10 Breast Cancer Risk Factors

A Guide to Breast Cancer Symptoms

Risks and Benefits: Understanding the Statistics That Affect You

Breast cancer survivor and award-winning author PJ Hamel, a long-time contributor to the HealthCentral community, counsels women with breast cancer through the volunteer program at her local hospital. She founded and manages a large and active online survivor support network.