Remember in 2008 when reports on the harmful effects of the chemical bisphenol A (aka BPA) caused people to throw out their Nalgene water bottles en masse? Well, scientists have just discovered another commonly handled source of BPA: your money.
In case you've forgotten, here's what's up: BPA is the organic compound commonly found in polycarbonate plastics like the ones that used to be used in water bottles. Unfortunately, studies have also shown that BPA can act as an endocrine disruptor, meaning that it can actually mimic the biological activity of the hormone estrogen and give rise to all sorts of problems in the body. When people caught wind that their water bottles could be leaching BPA, water bottles the world over got tossed.
Well it turns out that high concentrations of BPA are also found in the thermal paper used to print receipts at cash registers. Dr. Kurunthachalam Kannan and his colleagues at the State University of New York have shown that when such a receipt goes into your wallet, the BPA is quickly transferred to any bills you may be carrying. But this kind of thermal paper is used pretty much anywhere cash is exchanged for goods, so just how far and wide has the BPA contamination spread?
Well, the bad news is that BPA is pretty much on everyone's money everywhere. In their study, the researchers examined paper currencies from 21 countries around the world and found traces of BPA on every single one. The authors estimate that the amount of BPA they found would translate to an average daily exposure through paper currencies of a few nanograms per day.
The good news is that the authors say this amount is "10-fold lower than those reported from exposure due to indoor dust ingestion in the United States."
Which means that the (real) bad news is that we're ingesting BPA-laced dust, and are exposed to BPA all the time, even from many other sources that the authors admit are not very well characterized.
In other words, even though the BPA on your money doesn't amount to much on its own, the fact remains that it's really just adding to your daily BPA exposure. If you're as messed up about the BPA on your bills as you were when you found out about it in your water bottles, experts have indicated that you should direct all your dirty money to me. I will dispose of it properly.
Read the full scientific paper via Environmental Science & Technology
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