Can BPA be Absorbed through the Skin?

It's beginning to look like the answer is YES.

Swiss scientists recently found that BPA transfers readily from receipts to skin and can penetrate the skin to a depth that it can't be washed off.

So the next question is, can BPA continue traveling a little bit further and end up in the bloodstream? We don't know for certain yet, but EWG's latest report in which they tested several common stores' receipts for BPA makes it a valid concern.  They found through testing that BPA on a receipt is 250 to 1,000 times greater than the amount of BPA typically found in a can of food or a can of baby formula, or that which leaches from a BPA-based plastic baby bottle into its contents. And even more telling is the fact that retail workers carry an average of 30 percent more BPA in their bodies than other adults, although it's don't know how much BPA-coated receipts contribute to people's total exposure.

As suggested by EWG, one thing is certain:  because many retailers already use BPA-free paper for their receipts, it's one source of contamination that could easily be eliminated.  The EPA is even concerned enough to start looking for BPA-free thermal paper alternatives.  In the meantime, EWG offers some helpful tips to reduce your exposures to BPA in receipts:

  • Minimize receipt collection by declining receipts at gas pumps, ATMs and other machines when possible.
  • Store receipts separately in an envelope in a wallet or purse.
  • Never give a child a receipt to hold or play with.
  • After handling a receipt, wash hands before preparing and eating food (a universally recommended practice even for those who have not handled receipts).
  • Do not use alcohol-based hand cleaners after handling receipts. A recent study showed that these products can increase the skin's BPA absorption (Biedermann 2010).
  • Take advantage of store services that email or archive paperless purchase records.
  • Do not recycle receipts and other thermal paper. BPA residues from receipts will contaminate recycled paper.
  • If you are unsure, check whether paper is thermally treated by rubbing it with a coin. Thermal paper discolors with the friction; conventional paper does not.


4 Responses to Can BPA be Absorbed through the Skin?

  1. August 2, 2010 at 6:12 pm #

    Hi, everybody! Heads up!
    “because many retailers already use BPA-free paper for their receipts, it’s one source of contamination that could easily be eliminated”
    THERE IS CURRENTLY NO SUCH THING AS A BISPHENOL-FREE THERMAL RECEIPT PAPER. Actually, no, it can't be easily eliminated. All thermal receipt printer uses either BPA or BPS (bisphenol-sulfonyl). Many studies point to relative equivalency of these chemicals. Big brother BPA takes all the flack and little brother BPS gets a pass. Don't be fooled. The only non-bisphenol receipt paper is the older style slow impact printers that hardly any retailer uses any more

  2. Appleton Papers August 9, 2010 at 4:21 pm #

    Appleton Papers, which makes more than 50 percent of the receipt paper sold in the U.S., stopped using BPA in 2006. After reviewing available science we concluded removing BPA from our thermal products was the responsible thing to do. In doing so, we gave retailers and restaurants a safe, easy and cost-competitive choice. Our BPA-free thermal receipt paper is available globally.

    We realize that many of our competitors continue to use BPA despite mounting concerns about its safety. We are actively participating in the EPA’s BPA Alternatives in Thermal Paper Partnership. We hope the remainder of the thermal paper industry moves away from potentially harmful BPA. More information about the partnership is available on the EPA website:

    For more information about Appleton and our BPA-free thermal paper products, visit

  3. August 9, 2010 at 5:29 pm #

    Appleton papers ARE BPA-free. However, all thermal paper, including Appleton's thermal paper, uses bisphenol compounds as a developer. The available research points to BPS, Appleton's current choice, as being about equivalent in its hormone disrupting capabilities to BPA. Until some REALLY different chemistry is employed in thermal paper, it will still be dangerous for humans and other animals to touch.

  4. Thermal Paper April 18, 2011 at 5:52 am #

    Thats the only Paper we buy from is Appleton always bpa free

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