BPA, or Bisphenol A, is a toxic chemical used in plastic bottles, containers such as soup and vegetable/fruit cans, and other types of packaging.  It was formerly allowed in baby bottles and children’s “sippy cups,” until the FDA banned that use last year.

But it’s also found in unexpected places as well; namely paper receipts and airline tickets. Unless you’re a business traveler who is on the road constantly, that second one isn’t too much of a threat.  But receipts? That is something you likely touch almost every day. Think of all the places you might stop during the week… the grocery store, the drugstore, the mall, a restaurant, an ATM, Wal-Mart, the post office, the gas station, a coffee shop. All of these places provide you with a printed receipt. And once you touch that receipt, you are “infected” with the BPA toxin.

Even worse?  If you happen to be a cashier at one of the above-mentioned locations, you are touching receipts at a hundred times the rate of a typical consumer.

Why Should You Be Worried?
Yes, the FDA did ban BPA in sippy cups; but they refused to ban BPA altogether. So, what’s good for the goose isn’t good for the gander… or something like that? This is the agency that, if certain members of Congress get their way, will be able to regulate and ban certain natural supplements… but it can’t get its act together to ban a toxic chemical that disrupts the development of the central nervous system?

BPA IS dangerous. It is classified as an endocrine disruptor, which means it affects the way your hormones work and can lead to developmental and reproductive concerns. There is even a link between endocrine disruptors and conditions such as diabetes and obesity.

New research points to even more dangerous health issues.  Duke University scientists recently linked BPA with disruption of a gene necessary for proper functioning of nerve cells. Lead researcher, Dr. Wolfgang Liedtke, M.D., Ph.D., and an associate professor of medicine/neurology and neurobiology at Duke had this to say: “Our study found that BPA may impair the development of the central nervous system, and raises the question as to whether exposure could predispose animals and humans to neurodevelopmental disorders.”

Such disorders are especially harmful to children, as their brains are growing at break-neck speed.  But the damage can be seen in adults as well. That “foggy brain” you’re noticing might not have anything to do with age; rather you might be overloaded with BPA.

Animal studies show even scarier results, as BPA may induce abnormal reproductive system development, reduced intellectual capacity and behavioral abnormalities, and can predispose other serious conditions, such as reproductive system cancer, obesity, diabetes, early puberty, resistance to chemotherapy, asthma and cardiovascular system disorders.

The Threat is More Dangerous than You Think
You might be thinking… what’s the danger from a receipt now and then? Consider this: the BPA in receipts can absorb into your skin in an instant – penetrating so deep that it cannot be washed off.  So even if you wipe your hands with sanitizer once you get to your car, leave the store, get home, etc.; you’re not safe. Some scientists suggest that this depth of absorption raises the chance of the BPA infiltrating your bloodstream directly.

One study, conducted by researchers at the University of Missouri Division of Biological Sciences laboratory showed that the total mass of 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.”

The CDC has detected BPA in 93 percent of Americans over the age of six, and they report that retail workers have 30 percent more BPA in their systems than the average U.S. adult.

Other Endocrine Disruptors at Every Turn
BPA isn’t the only threat amongst you. You might be surprised to learn all the places endocrine disruptors are hiding. For instance, the vinyl in shower curtains contains the phthalate DEHP, which has been linked to respiratory problems.  Fragrances such as air fresheners and perfumes have been shown to mimic estrogen and can actually cause breast cancer cells to grow in the laboratory.  Dryer sheets, like fragrances, mimic estrogen; and laundry detergents contain alkylphenols, which seem to exhibit estrogen-like properties.  Sunscreens contain mountains of chemicals, which have been shown to cause liver and lung damage in animal studies.  Cosmetics may contain parabens, which act similarly to estrogen. Even your shampoo and conditioner can be at fault.

The good news is that many manufacturers of these products are leaning towards more natural options.  Just be careful; studies have shown that even the “alternative” cleaning solutions, considered to be greener and safer, tested positive for up to 55 different chemicals.

What Can You Do?
Many retailers are offering to email your receipt, rather than print it out.  This is certainly a step in the right direction.  Some retailers use receipts that are BPA-free or contain only trace amounts, so do your research… you might end up choosing to shop at one over another.

Additional options include regularly practicing steps of detoxification.  BPA and other endocrine disruptors aren’t the only toxins to which you’re exposed.  Smog, car exhaust, pesticides, preservatives, lead, mold, asbestos, arsenic, food additives… all wreak havoc on your body. Certain supplements are tailored specifically to help you get rid of those toxins in a safe and effective manner.

You can also make smart choices to lessen the chances you’ll encounter dangerous chemicals.  Try to buy organic as much as possible to avoid harmful pesticides.  If you’re moving into a new-to-you house or apartment, get a full report on the history of the building so you’re not surprised by latent mold, asbestos or lead.  Look for BPA-free water bottles and other containers.  Again, you must do your research – namely because the FDA and other government agencies won’t do it for you.