Nation Current Affairs 01 Mar 2018 Your ‘customer ...

Your ‘customer copy’ bill might just be toxic

Published Mar 1, 2018, 2:29 am IST
Updated Mar 1, 2018, 2:41 am IST
Some of the disorders caused include diabetes, cancer
Swipe your debit card better not ask for the ‘customer copy’ receipt that rolls out of the machine. The thermal paper used for the receipt could be a health hazard.
 Swipe your debit card better not ask for the ‘customer copy’ receipt that rolls out of the machine. The thermal paper used for the receipt could be a health hazard.

Vijayawada: Next time you swipe your debit card better not ask for the ‘customer copy’ receipt that rolls out of the machine. The thermal paper used for the receipt could be a health hazard.

Thermal paper, widely used for generating these receipts, is coated with Bisphenol-A (BPA), which is known as an Endocrine Disrupting Chemical (EDC). Though it makes the paper stable and heat resistant, and allows for inkless printing, it can cause serious ailments.   


In recent studies conducted in Delhi by the Indian environmental research and advocacy organisation Toxics Link, samples of thermal paper receipts collected from different markets showed the presence of BPA of between 600 ppm (parts per million) to an alarming 6600 ppm.

Endocrinologists from the city say these endocrine disrupting chemical can cause immune and thyroid disorders and various cancers. They are known to interfere with hormone action by altering the endocrine system. 

“EDCs cause many disorders including hormonal imbalances, diabetes and various cancers. We should avoid coming in contact with these EDCs. It’s surprising to know the presence of BPA in thermal papers that we come in contact with very often in our day-to-day activities these days,” says the city’s noted endocrinologist, Dr Y. Sadasiva Rao.


“BPA is loosely bound with the thermal paper so there is a high chance of the chemical penetrating the human skin as well as contaminating the ecosystem,” Piyush Mohapatra, senior programme coordinator with Toxic Link told Deccan Chronicle.

“Globally efforts are being made to phase out or restrict the use of BPA in thermal papers as a precaution. Japan, Belgium, Denmark, Canada and France have banned the use of BPA in thermal paper and the European Union has set a limit of 200 ppm.” 

Though research studies have found BPA levels of between 300 ppm and 6600 ppm in thermal paper used in India, “at present, there is no regulation for BPA content in thermal paper in India,” Mr Mohapatra said.


Need guidelines to regulate thermal papers
The research study by Toxic Link which indicated the high content of BPA (Bisphenol-A) in thermal paper in India also pointed out that there is no proper disposal system in place for these papers and they finally enter the ecosystem.

There is also the possibility that these BPA containing thermal papers could be recycled and contaminate other products. Therefore, suitable guidelines should be developed for overall management of these papers, says Toxics Link’s senior programme coordinator, Piyush Mohapatra.


Unfortunately, there are no guidelines at all in India to regulate the manufacture or usage of BPA coated thermal paper. Countries are taking action to either phase out or reduce the amount of BPA content in thermal paper. India should do likewise and regulate BPA levels in thermal paper to minimise risk and impact on human health.

Studies confirm risk to human health
Studies conducted globally on the presence of BPA in thermal paper, and its impact on human health, have showed alarming results. A study conducted by Shelley Ehrlich et al at Harvard University of Public Health, in 2015, found increase in BPA concentration in the urine of those handling bill receipts printed on thermal paper, for two hours continuously, without wearing gloves, but no increase in BPA levels in those using gloves.


A study by Annette M. Hormann et al at the University of Missouri, in 2014, concluded that elevated levels of BPA were observed in the blood serum of those just holding thermal paper.

In 2013, researchers from Kannur University in Kerala, India, analysed thermal paper used at local automated teller machines in India to detect the presence of BPA and the capability of the paper to produce oestrogen in those exposed to it. The results of the study indicated that these papers can produce hormonal effect on the system. 

The research study also stated that as tons of such receipts are being dumped in the environment, high amounts of hormone disruptors are being deposited in the environment. Another experiment carried out in France by Zalko D. et al, in 2010, with viable skin models demonstrated extensive uptake and biotransformation of BPA following its absorption in the skin.