As a Functional Health Coach one of the areas that I work on with clients is cleaning up their home environments. This is a key step towards recovery for those suffering from autoimmune disorders like alopecia or Hashimoto’s. For starters we look at water and indoor air. Together we examine other areas that have the potential to create problems: for example, fire retardants on new furniture, metals leaching from cooking equipment, toxins in skincare, etc. Everyone’s home environment is unique, it’s key to have a systematic approach to this.
I don’t just talk about these issues! I do actually apply everything that I’ve learned in my training to minimise these daily risks that we encounter. Last week I went shopping with my daughter in the Trafford Centre and noted that every single shop had hand sanitiser near to their entrances. This is a sensible approach to minimise the risk of catching coronavirus after you cautiously leave your home following weeks of lockdown. That said, hand sanitiser can produce some unwanted side effects when combined with other chemicals.
We’ve known about BPA and it’s negative health impacts for years. I remember first hearing about it with regards to, specifically, the lining of tomato cans. BPA or bisphenol A is found in plastics, aluminium cans used for foods, and critically thermal paper e.g. cash register receipts. It’s an endocrine disruptor which means that this chemical can interfere with your endocrine (hormonal) system. What does this mean? Studies have shown links with this chemical and insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, asthma, cancer, liver damage and ADHD. (1)
The National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences states that even low doses of hormonal disrupting chemicals may be unsafe. This is because your body’s normal endocrine functioning involves very small changes in hormone levels, yet these small changes can create significant developmental and biological effects. An endocrine disruptor like BPA can increase or decrease normal hormone levels, mimic the body’s natural hormones or alter the natural production of hormones. (2)
Unfortunately chemicals which were supposed to remove BPA from our environment, like TPP (triphenyl phosphate) which enable manufacturers to use the ‘BPA free’ label on plastics still produce estrogenic activity (EA). (3)
Coronavirus and BPA
Perhaps the area that we should be most focused on today given the fact that we’re living through this time of coronavirus is that of thermal paper (commonly used for till receipts, transport tickets, restaurant orders from front of house to the kitchen). In 2014 a study showed that people who were handling lots of receipts had increased levels of BPA in their urine and blood. (4) While another 2014 study found that “data show after holding a receipt for 60 sec, there was 185-times more BPA transferred to a wet hand due to holding thermal receipt paper immediately after using hand sanitizer with penetration enhancing chemicals as opposed to when the hands were dry”. (5)
Given that we are all using hand sanitisers significantly more in an attempt to remain safe during this pandemic, we should be aware of this increased risk. Let’s face it we’ve already ran out of sanitiser once in the UK, I even have a quick recipe on my site giving instructions on how to make your own. https://practicalhealthcoach.uk/how-to-make-hand-sanitiser-at-home-using-ingredients-that-you-probably-already-have-lying-around/ Other cosmetics like lotions and moisturisers also enable lipid-soluble chemicals like BPA to be absorbed by the skin.
More recently last year, a study examined BPA and BPS (bisphenol S) in receipts from Brazil, France and Spain and found that hormone-like activity was found in >80% of the paper, and that the BPA levels were 30 to 100 times higher than the EU recommended level of 0.2mg/g. The United States currently has no minimum recommended levels for these endocrine disrupting chemicals. (6)
What can you do?
So what can you do to minimise your contact with thermal paper while still following safety protocols for CV-19:
· Have a receipt emailed to you if that’s an option.
· Leave the receipt!
· Use gloves.
· Don’t keep receipts in pockets, or lying around the bottom of your bag.
· Don’t touch thermal paper if you’ve just used hand sanitiser.
· If you must take a receipt, fold it inwards on itself and put in a rubbish bin as soon as practicable.
· Exercise caution if you’re in a vulnerable group: for example, pregnant women, pre-conception couples, working in an environment which has significant contact with thermal paper, children and adolescents.