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News

July 6, 2012

Toxic heavy metals found in imported packaging

DES MOINES — A new study found nearly 40 percent of imported plastic packaging tested violates state toxics laws.

The Toxics in Packaging Clearinghouse studied packaging purchased in eight discount retail chain stores in seven member states, including Iowa. Packaging from all eight chains failed screening tests for cadmium, with one sample also failing for lead. All of the failing samples were in imported polyvinylchloride packaging.

Lead and cadmium are inexpensive plasticizers, but Iowa law restricts adding lead, cadmium, mercury and hexavalent chromium to packaging because of the toxicity of the materials, particularly when it breaks down after being discarded.

“Packaging in violation of state laws is likely not one-time sourcing or production mistakes, but rather appears pervasive in imported PVC packaging, whereas U.S. packaging consistently tests safe,” according to Kathleen Hennings, a DNR environmental specialist who heads Iowa’s toxics in packaging program.

Packaging that failed the screening tests was not confined to any specific product sectors but included children’s products, pet supplies, personal care, household items, home furnishings, hardware and apparel.

Find the complete report, “An Assessment of Heavy Metals in Packaging: A Focus on Flexible PVC from Discount Retail Chain Stores,” at www.toxicsinpackaging.org.

The clearinghouse uses x-ray fluorescence analysis to screen packaging routinely for regulated metals. Several studies during the past few years show that manufacturers and distributors must be vigilant about their packaging materials, particularly PVC packaging sourced from overseas.                                                                              

Administered by the Northeast Recycling Council, Inc., the Toxics in Packaging Clearinghouse supports and helps states fulfill their packaging laws. Nineteen U.S. states have toxics in packaging requirements. Ten states, including Iowa, are clearinghouse members. The clearinghouse’s mission, in part, is to reduce the amount and toxicity of packaging at the source, before it enters the solid waste stream.

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