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Cash register jobs join list of hazardous professions

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

By Alex Formuzis, EWG Vice-President for Media Relations

Firefighters and beat cops. Soldiers, farm workers, war correspondents and hard hats who dangle from high iron as they build skyscrapers. Those are a few professions most folks consider risky. And if you're pregnant and happen to work behind a cash register, you, too, are not risk-free.

The experts say the most significant route of exposure to the estrogen-mimicking chemical bisphenol-A (BPA) is through canned food and beverages, but a person's occupation may also be an important factor.

EWG tests detected BPA in store receipts Last spring, researchers at Environmental Working Group collected 36 samples of cash register receipts from fast food restaurants, big retailers, grocery stores, gas stations and post offices in seven states and the District of Columbia and had them tested by a renowned lab. The tests showed that 40 percent of the receipts had high levels of BPA. And testing by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that retail workers have higher levels of BPA in their urine than non-retail workers.

Federal tests confirm EWG findings Now a new, federally funded, multi-year study is confirming our concerns about BPA in receipts. More than 380 pregnant women from the Cincinnati area had their urine tested for BPA at three points during pregnancies and at birth, and the results are troubling. Women in the study who worked at a register had an average of 55 percent more BPA in their urine than those employed as teachers. Many register receipts are coated with BPA, which brings out the black print without the need for ink.

Canned food another source of BPA Additionally, study participants who ate at least one can of vegetables a day had on average 44 percent more BPA in their urine than those who consumed no canned food. Higher levels of the chemical were also detected in women who smoked, inhaled secondhand smoke or routinely came in contact with phthalates commonly found in vinyl products. BPA is often found in cigarette filters and is an ingredient in many plastic products, including some food packaging.

All told, 90 percent of the 389 women in the study had detectable BPA.

This latest research comes as policymakers in Washington, D.C. are considering proposals to restrict the use of the chemical as an ingredient in some consumer products.

The good news: You can reduce your BPA exposure Although the study underscores that there are multiple pathways of exposure to BPA, there is some good news. The threat posed by all of these routes can be dramatically reduced, if not eliminated all together:

  • If you handle receipts at work, wear latex gloves.
  • Limit your consumption of canned food as much as possible.
  • If you're a smoker, quit.
  • Try to avoid polycarbonate and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastics. Polycarbonate is often used to produce hard plastic water bottles and eating utensils, and PVCs are common in Tupperware and certain food wrappings. Ziploc, Glad Saran all claim to be both BPA and PVC free.

Thanks to Flickr CC & nateOne for the plethora of cash registers pictured here.

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