Thermal Paper Printers: Less Healthy, More Hassle
By: Priorclave North America
For labs that need to maintain hard-copy records of each sterilization cycle, a built in printer has long been a sought after autoclave accessory. Unfortunately, many autoclave manufacturers favor thermal paper printers. Thermal paper has a number of disadvantages. Specifically:
- Limited archival quality
- Often expensive to stock
- Contains BPA
Limited Archival Quality
The text on thermal paper tends to fade over time making it a poor solution for long-term documentation and record keeping. Even under optimal conditions, images and text will begin to fade in seven years—and this can be substantially shortened if the paper is exposed to moisture, temperature variances, or is in direct contact with certain other types of paper. There is little scarier to an accountant than knowing that the company’s documents are literally “fading away.”
Expensive to Stock
The paper offered by most autoclave manufacturers fits nicely into their dispensers, often because the roll’s dimensions and spool are “optimized” for a specific make and model of sterilizer. These rolls are only furnished by a small number of distributors—such as the manufacturers themselves. Adding to the expense is the fact that unused rolls of thermal paper are even more delicate than printed thermal paper: The reliable shelf-life for a roll of thermal paper is only three years, and that’s under ideal conditions (i.e., kept in darkness, below 77°F, and between 45% and 65% humidity). You can’t safely buy thermal paper in bulk when you find a good deal.
These inconveniences may ultimately pale in comparison to health issues that may arise from frequent contact with thermal paper. Most thermal paper is coated in BPA (Bisphenol A). BPA is a carbon-based synthetic compound used to make certain plastics and resins, and is now believed to pose health risks to those regularly exposed to it, as well as their families.
According to an October 2014 article in Newsweek, “Hand Sanitizer Speeds Absorption of BPA from Receipts”, BPA is frequently found in thermal paper. “BPA helps make dyes bind to the paper, and make the printing more visible.” The articles stresses, “Many researchers are concerned about the health effects of BPA because it is an endocrine disruptor, interfering with proper function of hormones like estrogen. Animals studies have linked it to a number of concerning health effects, including abnormal brain function and sexual development.” Earlier in 2014 Newsweek noted that an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association confirmed research findings “that people who continuously handle store receipts wind up with significantly elevated levels of bisphenol-A (BPA).”
The effects and impacts of BPA have been the subject of a number of other studies, some of which suggest there are some health concerns for humans, including infants and young children.
Several manufacturers—including Priorclave—have made a point of avoiding thermal paper altogether, and instead outfitting their autoclaves with plain-paper printers.
Priorclave offers a Tactrol Data Printer as an option across the model line up. The printer provides an archivable plain-paper printed record of each autoclave cycle. Some of the cycle data recorded includes the machine serial number, owner information, temperatures (at specific intervals during the cycle), a pass/fail status, fault codes (if triggered during the cycle), and the cycle number. All of this information is pulled directly from the Tactrol Microprocessor No additional equipment is required.
Priorclave plain-paper printers use only standard-dimension spools—which means they can accept the generic “adding machine” rolls available from most office supply stores (you may need to spool off a few yards of paper in order to reduce the diameter of the roll to fit into our printer). Not only are these rolls more cost-effective to use and less of a hassle to acquire, but they also offer superior archivability, no-worry storage, and pose absolutely no known health risks to anyone. For more information on our printing options, please review our autoclave accessories page.