02/25/2014 04:09 pm ET Updated Feb 25, 2014

Is This A Source Of BPA Exposure?

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It's well-known that a common source of exposure to the endocrine-disrupting chemical bisphenol A (BPA) is through diet, since it can leach into food from water bottles, food containers and cans. But a new pilot study suggests another potential route for BPA exposure that you probably haven't thought of before: handling receipts.

The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, shows that people who handled thermal paper receipts for two hours without using gloves had higher concentrations of BPA in their urine, compared with when they used gloves. Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health, University of California, San Francisco, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center were involved in the study.

The researchers had 24 volunteers handle thermal receipts -- which are commonly used at gas stations, grocery stores and ATMs -- with gloves and without gloves for two hours each. They provided urine samples before and after each handling, so that researchers could detect BPA levels. At the start of the study, BPA was detected in 83 percent of the urine samples, but in 100 percent of the urine samples at the end of the study.

Researchers also found that the BPA concentrations in the urine increased after the participants handled the receipts without gloves, but the concentrations did not significantly increase when the participants handled the receipts with gloves.

However, it's important to note that "the peak level (5.8 micrograms/L) was lower than that observed after canned soup consumption (20.8 micrograms/L)," the researchers wrote in the study. "The clinical implications of the height of the peak level and the chronicity of exposure are unknown, but may be particularly relevant to occupationally exposed populations such as cashiers, who handle receipts 40 or more hours per week."

Bisphenol A is an endocrine disruptor, meaning it could "interfere with the body’s endocrine system and produce adverse developmental, reproductive, neurological, and immune effects in both humans and wildlife," according to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. While the Food and Drug Administration's current position on the chemical is that it is safe at the low levels that it's present in in foods, studies are currently being conducted to further understand the safety of the chemical. The FDA banned the chemical from baby bottles and kids' drinking cups in 2012.