In a shocking revelation, the Consumer Education Research Society in Ahmedabad during in-house tests on popular clinical thermometers (mercury and digital) has found at least 16 popular brands to be inaccurate in calibration.
The findings are alarming, as at least 16 popular brand thermometers have failed to conform to the norms prescribed by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS). It is worth remembering that a clinical thermometer is generally used by people at their homes to check body temperature.
"We have tested clinical thermometers. About 16 brands of these are important, as they are used on children also to measure their temperature. Our concern is that these thermometers contain mercury. We have to be very careful and have to warn all the users that if it breaks how this mercury is to be disposed off," said Dr. Shishu, Trustee and Project Head, Consumer Education Research Society in Ahmedabad.
"One cannot touch this mercury. So this kind of warning is not there as to how hazardous this mercury can be if the thermometer breaks. If the mercury is coming out of the thermometer, it is extremely poisonous," said Dr. Shishu added.
Clinical thermometer is a vital instrument for any household. If the accuracy of thermometers is not proper, the distorted readings could misguide the doctor and result in erroneous diagnosing.
Consumer Education Research Society (CERS) in Ahmedabad for the first time has carried out extensive in-house comparative product tests in their laboratory on clinical thermometers.
The laboratory tested clinical thermometers for only one parameter -- accuracy in temperature measurement.
The BIS norms specify the test of accuracy at 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit (F), 102.2 degrees F, and 105.8 degrees F. The much proclaimed brands ought to have passed these aspects of accuracy at all the three temperatures.
The thermometers of many popular companies were found inaccurate.
"What is more disturbing is that most of the thermometers are in a way failing. The main reason is temperature variation. They don't give you the accurate temperature and another thing is that all are saying that these are BIS (Bureau of Indian Standards) certified. But that doesn't seem to be a correct statement. If they were BIS certified, they should have been giving us correct temperature and the labeling should have been proper," said Dr. Shishu.
"Most stringent monitoring is required and if the product is meeting the laid down specification limit, such product should be available in the market. That is crucial stage to start with and again mercury is a bit hazardous thing; so one should switch over to a digital thermometer," said H. S. Tripathi, Senior Manager, Laboratory, Consumer Education Research Society.
"Cost of digital thermometer compared to mercury glass thermometer is really high but Government can give some subsidy something should be done to bring down the price of digital thermometer so that the common man can also afford digital thermometer," he added.
"We found that thermometers were affected by age also. They are not thrown out unless the thermometers break. The age of thermometer also has an impact on its accuracy. Why have the makers not informed the consumers about it? There should be a caution just like an expiry date on food products and there should have been an expiry date on thermometer," said Pritee Shah, Senior Director, Editor, Insight, a journal published by Consumer Education Research Society.
"We hope that regulatory authorities and the manufacturers take a note of our observations and take appropriate actions where it is important to improve the accuracy and tighten its regulations on the product," Shah added.
Today, Consumer Education Research Society (CERS) tested 16 brands for accuracy at three temperatures and all the brands failed in accuracy. Last time, a similar survey was carried out in 2000.
Prior to publishing the results of the tests, the CERS sent the reports to all the manufactures for their views. Reportedly, some of them have responded positively.
The CERS has stressed on the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) for making it mandatory for the manufacturers of the thermometers to mention the date of manufacture and expiry. It has also asked BIS to lay down standards for digital thermometers.
The CERS has suggested that hospitals should change over to digital thermometers as the mercury-based glass thermometers are hazardous and prone to break.