On October 22, 2014 the peer-reviewed scientific journal PLoS ONE released a study providing evidence that thermal paper may be a important contributor to BPA body burden.

Regulatory authorities assume that consumers are primarily exposed to BPA from food contact materials (FCMs). However, free BPA is also used to coat the surface of thermal receipts. The new study investigated exposure to BPA based on real-world scenarios of consumer behavior in food courts and restaurants as related to receipt handling habits and subsequent food consumption. The research team also took into account the growing use of hand sanitizers. These products may contain ingredients enhancing skin penetration of other chemicals, including BPA.

The results show that when the study participants held thermal receipt paper immediately after applying a hand sanitizer containing penetration enhancers, free BPA was transferred to their hands and consequently the French fries they were consuming. The dermal and oral BPA absorption combined led to a fast average maximum increase in blood levels of bioactive BPA and total BPA in urine. The authors stress that the current default method used by regulatory authorities to assess the hazards posed by chemicals is gavage. Gavage is a method by which chemicals are inserted directly into the stomach ignoring the dermal and sublingual absorption. Yet, the new study shows that these exposure routes are likely to be relevant for consumers. The authors conclude that the effects of penetration enhancers in dermally applied products on transdermal absorption of environmental contaminants should be considered in risk assessments and as a high-priority research topic.


Hormann, A.M. et al. (2014). “Holding thermal receipt paper and eating food after using hand sanitizer results in high serum bioactive and urine total levels of bisphenol A (BPA).” PLoS ONE (published online October 22, 2014).