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Levels of worrisome chemical higher in female cashiers

October 08, 2010

Bisphenol A is a chemical found in polycarbonate plastic used to make numerous consumer products. In recent years, studies have suggested that high levels of the chemical stored in the body can lead to adverse health effects. Prenatal exposure is thought to be particularly harmful because the chemical can mimic estrogen. High levels in pregnancy have been linked in some studies to an increased risk of obesity and behavioral problems in children.

Research published Friday indicates that bisphenol A levels in pregnant women vary widely.
Scientists examined BPA levels in urine samples from 386 pregnant women in Cincinnati. About 90% of the women had detectable levels of bisphenol A. Higher concentrations were found in women with education levels below a high school graduation, but socioeconomic factors did not seem to affect exposures otherwise.

The highest levels were found in women who worked as cashiers compared with women working in other occupations. A study published in August found bisphenol A content was present in cash register receipts and made up 3% of the total weight of the receipt. This association, however, "should be interpreted cautiously," the authors of the new study wrote, because the data were based on readings from only 17 women. Further research is needed on this link in order to advise pregnant cashiers on whether they should wear gloves or masks at work to prevent exposure. The lowest levels of BPA were found among women who reported working in teaching or industrial occupations.

The study also found that pregnant women exposed to tobacco smoke had higher levels of bisphenol A as well as women who reported eating more canned vegetables and women exposed to phthalate-containing products, such as vinyl flooring and plastic containers. Vegetarians had lower levels of BPA concentrations compared with non-vegetarians, but only five women in the study reported being vegetarians.

The study was published online Friday in Environmental Health Perspectives.

-- Shari Roan / Los Angeles Times

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