Of all the meal plans UGA offers, the commuter meal plan may be the most convenient for those who do not live on campus. According to UGA Dining Services, approximately 2,000 people use the commuter meal plan. Each time one of these commuters goes to a dining hall, they get a receipt of their remaining balance every visit. These receipts, which serve no purpose, could harm the health of the dining hall workers who handle them.
These dining hall receipts are made from thermal paper. Thermal paper, which has a different chemical composition from regular paper, allows printing without ink. Although this process saves money, most thermal paper is coated with BPA to allow for easy transfer of heat. A 2015 study in the Journal of Environmental Science and Technology reports 94 percent of thermal receipts contain BPA, the only exception being those from Japan.
According to the 2015 study “Health Risk of Exposure to Bisphenol A,” BPA is a common and dangerous chemical found in many paper products. Thermal receipts are one of the largest offenders, contributing to 98 percent of BPA exposure due to paper products.
BPA can be absorbed through the skin, disrupting estrogen. Regular exposure to BPA can affect male and female fertility, play a role in metabolic disorders like polycystic ovary syndrome and increase hormone-dependent cancers, such as breast and prostate cancer.
Worsening the problem, hand sanitizers placed near the registers can increase absorption of BPA in the skin, according to a 2014 study published in PLOS ONE. So the extra immunity to illness you thought you were getting may actually cause greater harm the next time you touch that receipt.
Quickly handling these receipts may not harm consumers, but it could lead to larger BPA exposure if you deal with it occupationally.
A 2016 study from the National Library of Medicine found workers who regularly come into contact with receipts in the course of their job have significantly higher concentration of BPA in their urine. Therefore, these receipts pose a serious health risk to those who work at the registers of the dining halls.
While thermal receipts are a danger to any worker who has to handle them, commuter receipts used in the dining halls are particularly pointless. All the information on the receipts log can be logged and accessed digitally.
Not only would UGA save money by not buying thermal paper, but they would also be saving their dining workers from such an unnecessary health risk.
However, as they are now, commuter receipts are a waste of money and a potential harm to the people who handle them daily. Let’s make an effort to ditch these paper receipts for a healthier UGA population.