Bisphenol A, better known as BPA, is found in many products we encounter daily such as the plastics lining cans. But now scientists have pinpointed an equally-common, but lesser-known, source of BPA exposure.

BPA is considered a potential health hazard because of its endocrine disrupting, hormone-like properties. It can cause reproductive defects in fetuses, infants, children and adults, as well as cancer, metabolic and immune problems in rodents.

Study participants were asked to eat French fries after touching the BPA-containing paper.

The new source of BPA exposure comes from thermal paper receipts of cash registers, restaurant checks, and gas pumps and account for elevated levels of BPA in humans, according to University of Missouri scientists. BPA is used as a print developer for the receipts.

What's really surprising is that if a person uses skin care products such as hand sanitizers, lotions, soaps and sunscreens, exposure risk increases. These lotions drastically alter the absorption rate of BPA into the skin.

In the study, individuals who cleaned their hands with hand sanitizers and then handled thermal paper were monitored for absorption. Study participants were asked to eat french fries after touching the BPA-containing paper. The researchers noted that large amounts of BPA can be absorbed from our hands to the foods we eat, as well as directly via handling of thermal paper receipts.

“BPA from thermal papers will be absorbed into your blood rapidly; at those levels, many diseases such as diabetes and disorders such as obesity increase as well. Use of BPA or other similar chemicals that are being used to replace BPA in thermal paper pose a threat to human health,” said Frederick vom Saal, Curators Professor of Biological Sciences at Missouri.

The study is published in PLOS ONE.