Some imported packaging found to contain heavy metals

Published: July 6, 2012 6:00 am ET

Related to this story

Topics Public Policy, Sustainability, Packaging, Film & Sheet, Thermoforming

BRATTLEBORO, VT. (July 6, 2:25 p.m. ET) — Traces of heavy metals have been found in imported flexible PVC packaging for products sold at discount stores, according to a report from Toxics in Packaging Clearinghouse.

According to a June 28 report, 39 percent of the packages screened by TPCH showed the presence of cadmium or lead.

Nineteen states prohibit the intentional use of heavy metals like cadmium, lead, mercury, and hexavalent chromium in packaging and packaging components, and limit incidental use to less than 100 parts per million.

Heavy metals pose an environmental concern, said Patricia Dillon, program manager for TPCH. When waste is incinerated, the metals aren’t destroyed and instead show up in the ash or in the atmosphere. When waste is recycled, those metals end up back in the packaging stream, she said.

Brattleboro, Vt.-based TPCH works with states to ensure packaging is compliant. In the past, the group has conducted tests on a variety of packaging materials — plastics, glass, steel, aluminum and paper – but this time focused solely on flexible PVC packaging, an area shown to be problematic, Dillon said.

The group also focused on discount or “dollar” stores, because they offer a ready supply of inexpensive, imported products, another common source of non-compliant packaging, she said.

TPCH purchased products at six discount or dollar chain stores and from “dollar bins” at two well-known retail chains. All eight of the retailers sold non-compliant products.

The group would not release the names of the retailers because they have taken action to remove the products and correct the issue, Dillon said, adding that the names would become public if retailers continued to violate the restrictions.

The group tested 61 packages from a variety of products using an X-ray fluorescence (XRF) scanner. Of those, 24 of the packages contained cadmium. One package, for a cat toy imported from China, also contained lead.

Non-compliant packages came from a variety of categories — children’s products, pet supplies, personal care, household items, home furnishings, hardware and apparel — and, with one exception where a product’s origins could not be determined, were imported from China, according to the report.

“It’s not about PVC, it’s about making PVC the wrong way,” said Allen Blakey, spokesman for the Vinyl Institute in Alexandria, Va.

“[Companies] need to show more responsibility for the formulation in the manufacturing and the quality control of their product,” he said in a phone interview.

Heavy metals — cadmium and lead in particular — can be used as stabilizers in PVC or added to inks, Blakely said. The metals are inexpensive and perform well, so at one time were widely used. When concerns were raised about heavy metals, most companies replaced them with other materials, he said, adding that he didn’t know of any major vinyl applications that still used cadmium.

Those that do need to start following the law, he said, and companies that work with imported materials need to be diligent about ensuring they’re compliant.

“The responsibility ought to be with everybody in the supply chain. Everyone buying, transporting and retailing these products,” he said. “You have to ensure that you’re meeting the requirements of the law.”

States used the results of the report to notify retailers, manufacturers and distributors of the non-compliant products. Retailers responded and took action by pulling the products off shelves, returning the products to the manufacturer, implementing new quality-control procedures or purchasing XRF scanners, the report said.

Though non-compliant packages continue to appear, the number is shrinking. In a 2007 report, 61 percent of PVC packages failed screening tests and 52 percent failed in 2009.

Screening for metals has become easier in recent years with the development of handheld XRF scanners, and retailers and major companies have become more diligent about ensuring packages are compliant, Dillon said.

“Since the TPCH has been screening, we think we’re seeing a good improvement in packaging. … We think we’re seeing progress,” she said.


Comments

Some imported packaging found to contain heavy metals

Published: July 6, 2012 6:00 am ET

Post Your Comments


Back to story


More stories

Image

Berry's rebranded Blue Clover expands packaging design reach

January 23, 2015 1:59 pm ET

As design director of Berry Plastics Corp.'s rebranded packaging design studio, Scott Fisher believes the new name of Blue Clover Studios cuts the...    More

Plastics executive pleads guilty in federal firearm case

January 23, 2015 12:37 pm ET

Richard Cummings, 43, a former manager at Tri Town Precision Plastics Inc. in Deep River, Conn., has pleaded guilty to violating federal firearms...    More

Image

Mexico's Polymer Solutions looks to grow, expand offerings with name change

January 23, 2015 12:03 pm ET

British biodegradable additives developer Symphony Environmental Technologies plc's Mexico distributor has changed its name from Plásticos...    More

Image

W&H buys bigger stake in BSW

January 23, 2015 10:43 am ET

Windmoeller & Hoelscher KG will get more involved in flexible packaging machinery through its bigger stake in machinery maker BSW Machinery Handels-...    More

Image

Esterform buys Constar UK, doubles PET preform capacity

January 23, 2015 10:07 am ET

Constar UK, once part of global packaging firm Constar International Holdings LLC, has a new owner.    More

Market Reports

Plastics in Automotive: Innovation & Emerging Trends

This special report newly released by PN and sponsored by The Conair Group examines current trends in the use of plastics in automotive, materials innovations and the changing landscape. It includes a review of legislative/regulatory activity impacting vehicle development and lightweighting, market opportunities & challenges for mold and toolmakers, innovative design strategies being implemented by major OEMs and suppliers, as well as a review of key indicators in Canada, Mexico, Brazil and China.

Learn more

Plastics Recycling Trends in North America

This report is a review and analysis of the North American Plastics Recycling Industry, including key trends and statistics based on 2013 performance. We examine market environment factors, regulatory issues, industry challenges, key drivers and emerging trends in post-consumer and post-industrial recycling.

Learn more

Injection Molding Market Analysis & Processor Rankings

Plastics News BUNDLED package contains our in-depth Market Analysis of the Injection Molding segment. You will gain keen insight on current trends and our economic outlook.

As a BONUS this includes PN's updated 2014 database of North American Injection Molders RANKED by sales volume. Sort, merge, mail & prospect by end market, materials processed, region, # of plants and more.

Learn more

Upcoming Plastics News Events

February 4, 2015 - February 6, 2015Plastics News Executive Forum 2015

June 2, 2015 - June 3, 2015Plastics Financial Summit - Chicago 2015

September 16, 2015 - September 18, 2015Plastics Caps & Closures - September 2015

More Events