top of page
  • Writer's pictureRebecca Genuis

Hand sanitizer & chemical exposures -

So it’s probably a no-no in the world of blogging to post on similar topics one after the other, but there’s an article about BPA and hand sanitizer that is just so prescient it’s worth all the rule breaking.

In 2014, before the chaos of COVID-19 hit, a group of researchers in Columbia, Missouri asked this question: how does using hand sanitizer before touching a thermal receipt coated in BPA affect our body’s exposure to BPA?

For a long time we’ve known that BPA is present in thermal receipts and that when we handle these receipts, we absorb BPA. Studies have shown a 2 to 3 fold increase in urinary BPA levels after subjects have handled BPA coated receipts.

But we now have an interesting (and unfortunate) twist on this stat. In this paper, researchers compared levels of BPA present on the skin if the receipt was touched with dry hands, vs hands that were still wet from using hand sanitizer,. They found that in the latter group, the collected samples contained BPA levels up to 180-fold greater than in subjects who had not used hand sanitizer! The reason for this likely has to do with the fact that many hand sanitizers, as well as other personal care products, contain dermal penetration enhancing chemicals (chemicals that increase your skin’s absorption) such as isopropyl myristate and propylene glycol.

We know BPA (and it's replacements) can be harmful to human health, and in a particular way, it makes sense to be cautious in the preconception period and throughout pregnancy and infancy. So while, especially at the present time, our attention to germs needs to be heightened, washing your hands with soap and water is the best way to take the necessary precautions. And if you do need to use hand sanitizer, it would be prudent to ensure your hands have dried completely before they touch anything else that might entail a chemical exposure.


Hormann, A. M., Saal, F. S., Nagel, S. C., Stahlhut, R. W., Moyer, C. L., Ellersieck, M. R., . . . Taylor, J. A. (2014). Holding Thermal Receipt Paper and Eating Food after Using Hand Sanitizer Results in High Serum Bioactive and Urine Total Levels of Bisphenol A (BPA). PLoS ONE, 9(10). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0110509

Lee, I., Kim, S., Kim, K.-T., Kim, S., Park, S., Lee, H., Jeong, Y., Lim, J.-E., Moon, H.-B., & Choi, K. (2018). Bisphenol A exposure through receipt handling and its association with insulin resistance among female cashiers. Environment International, 117, 268–275.

Lv, Y., Lu, S., Dai, Y., Rui, C., Wang, Y., Zhou, Y., Li, Y., Pang, Q., & Fan, R. (2017). Higher dermal exposure of cashiers to BPA and its association with DNA oxidative damage. Environment International, 98, 69–74.

Ndaw, S., Remy, A., Jargot, D., & Robert, A. (2016). Occupational exposure of cashiers to Bisphenol A via thermal paper: Urinary biomonitoring study. International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health, 89(6), 935-946. doi:10.1007/s00420-016-1132-8


Anchor 1
bottom of page