I probably shouldn’t admit how much I sympathize with this person.
Do you ever go into the grocery store to pick up a few things, only to have a sneaking suspicion that your store is trying to kill you? I mean really, grocery stores are pretty dangerous places when you think about it and I’m not just talking about wet floor signs, sharp twistie ties and precarious floor displays. I’m not even talking about the awful lighting in the dressing rooms at Target that caused the Great Swimsuit Meltdown of ’06. Heck, I’m not even talking about how they all dedicate an entire aisle to candy and then another whole section to seasonal candy which is both the blessing and bane of my existence these days so close to Easter, a.k.a. jelly bean open season.
In today’s edition of Things I Probably Shouldn’t Be Worried About Yet The More I Tell Myself To Stop The More I Think About It Pink Elephant, I’m talking grocery receipts. According to a recent study out of the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, 100% of people of who handled laser-printed grocery store receipts tested positive for having the carcinogen bisphenol A (BPA) in their urine. But that’s not the scary part. The truly terrifying piece of information is that 83% of the subjects also had it in the urine before handling the receipts.
BPA, also known as the reason everyone had to buy new water bottles for the gym a decade ago, is everywhere. It’s most known for being in hard plastic containers like baby bottles and water bottles (who likes babies and healthy people, anyhow??) but the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences says you can also find it in the lining of canned foods, water-supply pipes, medical devices and dental sealants among other things. So I guess I should have titled this “Your store cashier, doctor, dentist and plumber are trying to kill you”?
This is a problem because BPA is a known hormone-disruptor and has been linked in research to increased risk of several types of cancer, liver damage and is also thought to be an obesogen. Research has found that obese people have higher levels of BPA in their system than smaller counterparts and while the cause-effect relationship remains unclear, I would guess that since it acts as a weak estrogen in the body and estrogen is a fat-storing hormone that it would make sense if the chemical contributed to obesity. (Which is something I like to point out when people tell me that people gain weight simply because they lack willpower and/or are too dumb to count calories. We live in a toxic environment that sabotages people’s health efforts, regardless of weight, on all levels including a molecular one.)
But back to the scary stuff! A study published this month concluded that BPA has “genetic, epigenetic and endocrine disruption mechanisms with the possible involvement of oxidative stress, mitochondrial dysfunction and cell signaling.” That’s science-speak for it messes with all the systems that run your body. (Will no one think of the mitochondria? Someone call Charles-Wallace and Meg!!)
The FDA, the government body tasked with keeping carcinogens out of baby bottles and water-supply lines, has a rebuttal: CALM YO’ SELF. Okay, I might have paraphrased a wee bit. Here’s their official position from their press release:
Research has shown that people are exposed to BPA because small amounts can migrate into the food and beverages from their containers. Reports from some animal studies have raised potential concerns that BPA exposure may cause multiple health problems, including reproductive disorders, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
There have also been studies that contend that BPA is a hazard to people too. But FDA—as well as the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA)—has carefully assessed these studies and finds no convincing evidence to support that belief.
The regulatory agency must objectively weigh all the evidence, says Keefe. “We make public health decisions based on a careful review of well performed studies, not based on claims or beliefs. We have to perform an unbiased evaluation of the data,” he says.
I love me some unbiased evaluations! But seriously I have no idea what this means. Taken all together I think we conclude from these studies that a) There is no way to not be exposed to BPA as it’s everywhere and b) You still might want to take reasonable precautions to avoid it. Here are a few things I brainstormed (your welcome!):
1. Wear gloves. At all times. Not only will it protect you from BPA and latent fecal matter but if you decide to commit a crime you won’t have to worry about fingerprints.
2. Ask the cashier to just put the receipt in the bag and then slowly back away with her hands in the air.
3. Give all receipts a tongue bath and tell people that if you’re going to die young then at least you’ll die doing what you love. Put hidden cameras in the room to capture their honest reactions.
4. Buy all your groceries at The Home Depot because they will automatically e-mail you your receipt if you want. What? They have beef jerky, nuts, slim jims, chips, candy and energy drinks! You’ll have plenty of well-rounded meal options.
Okay, fine, you want some real tips?
1. Avoid clear plastics. There are plenty of glass, wood and metal options for food containers these days.
2. Don’t cook in plastic dishes and don’t cook with plastic wrap over the top of your food.
3. Filter your tap water. A standard activated charcoal filter does remove BPA.
4. Don’t drink out of plastic water bottles.
5. Grow out your nails so you can pick up receipts using only the tips. (I’d tell you to get false tips but apparently nail resin also has BPA.) Or just don’t touch the ink?
But whatever you do, don’t google it. Because what I learned tonight is that BPA is only one of many endocrine disruptors in our environment and it’s not even the worst one. So maybe I’ll just go back to spit-polishing my apple on my shirt and pretending that counts as a wash.
Do you guys worry about crap in your grocery store killing you too? What’s your reaction when you read studies like this – do you do your best to fix whatever the problem is or do you just go all Jesus-take-the-wheel and read a novel instead? Do you take any steps to avoid BPA? And if so, share your tips!
BTW, the internet is a goldmine of hilarious receipts if you need a good giggle today!!