Hyderabad: As you sip tea or coffee from a disposable paper cup, you also ingest some wax. All paper cups have a thin coating of wax on their inner surface to prevent them from disintegrating upon contact with a liquid. When a hot liquid is poured into such a cup, the wax gradually melts and mixes with it.
Experts say that the acid in the stomach usually flushes out whatever wax is consumed; however, if large amounts of it are ingested, it may accumulate and cause an obstruction in the intestines. Plastic cups are said to be more dangerous than wax-coated paper cups because they release polymers into the hot liquid.
“A thin coat of wax is sprayed during the manufacturing process. Polythene and paraffin are used to uphold the durability of the product by obstructing the paper from absorbing the liquid. There are defined guidelines for the preparation of paper cups – the thickness of the wax layer should be minimal, and when the product is soaked in water, it should not release any toxic liquid. However, mo-st manufacturers ignore the standards and products reach retailers without clearing quality checks,” says a scientist from the Polymers and Functional Materials Division of the Indian Institute of Chemical Technology.
Dr B. Prabhakar, a gastroenterologist, says, “The wax on cups gives them a shiny, clean look, just like that the wax that fruit vendors use on apples. Wax is insoluble, and if consumed in large quantities, it can get accumulated and may cause bloating, fullness and gas. Depositions of wax can remain in the stomach and cause an obstruction in the intestines. But these medical conditions are only experienced when there is an extremely high intake of wax. Our body can discard minor amounts, however, its ingestion over a long-term can become a problem.”
Storm in the Tea Cup
- Disposable paper cups are popular with pantries, hawkers, public gatherings and private parties.
- When hot liquid is poured into these cups, the wax melts and mixes up with the liquid.
- Human stomach acids can discard a minor amount of wax, but likely to cause a problem in the long-run.