Researchers say that pregnant women should think twice about taking cash register and credit card receipts because of the risk of bisphenol A (BPA) and bisphenol S (BPS), two known endocrine disruptors that may impact fetal neural development, according to a study published by a team of researchers at the University of Calgary.
The study showed that even low doses of the endocrine disruptors had worrying effects on the neural development of zebrafish. So much so that researchers said that the chemicals should be removed from consumer merchandise all together. In the mean time, they suggest that pregnant women should limit their exposure to BPA and BPS by avoiding plastics, aluminum cans lined with the chemical, and cash register receipts.
Low doses seemed to cause the excess growth of neural cells, which is linked to hyperactivity. The impact of the chemicals is the most problematic during the second trimester when infant brains are growing at the most rapid pace.
"What we show is that BPA affects the timing of when neurons are born, and that presumably alters circuitry in the brain, so you get this slightly different wiring," lead researcher Deborah Kurrasch said to The Vancouver Sun. Kurrasch studies how changes in the brain early on can impact it later in life.
She says that while zebrafish are obviously not the same as humans, the way neurons form early on is similar.
"Just say no thank you to receipts" is Kurrasch's advice to consumers and pregnant women, whose babies might be at highest risk. "If I were pregnant I probably wouldn't take receipts, I'd probably be very careful about plastics and use as much glass as I possibly could," said the University of Calgary researcher to The Vancouver Sun.
BPA is a known endocrine disruptor that’s been linked to health problems including breast and prostate cancer, declines in sperm counts, early sexual maturation in females, neurobehavioral problems, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and immune system effects. Though lesser known, BPS has been linked to irregular heartbeat, disrupted prenatal development, and stimulating breast cancer cells.
Avoiding these chemicals is not easy because they are so widely used. But there are some steps that you can take. Pregnant women especially should say no thank you to cash register receipts. Instead, monitor your bank account online. Substitute plastic for glass as much as possible in water bottles, baby bottles, food storage containers, eating utensils, toys, etc. Additionally, avoid prepackaged foods, especially aluminum cans that are not BPA-free. Choose fresh foods as much as possible instead of prepackaged foods that may be lined with plastics. Take steps to reduce your exposure to these endocrine disruptors especially while pregnant. The chemicals seem to have the most potent impact on fetuses because they are so vulnerable during early development.
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Image of a cash register receipt from Shuttershock