On July 13, 2018, a preprint of a manuscript submitted to Science of The Total Environment was published in the PeerJ Preprints. The manuscript describes first results from the ongoing project Hazardous Chemicals in Plastic Packaging (HCPP). Food Packaging Forum and six partner non-profit and academic organizations from Europe and U.S. are involved in this research project. The scientists compiled a database of Chemicals associated with Plastic Packaging (CPPdb) and ranked human health and environmental hazards of these chemicals.
The CPPdb covers both food and non-food packaging. It currently contains 906 chemicals likely associated with plastic packaging and 3377 chemicals that are possibly associated. In addition, plastic packaging can contain impurities, degradation products, and contaminants which cannot be exhaustively compiled because many of these chemicals are not yet identified. Significant difficulties encountered during this study were the lack of transparency and restricted access to industry data, as well as gaps in publicly available information on both the use and toxicity of plastic packaging-associated chemicals.
At least 148 chemicals likely associated with plastic packaging were identified as the most hazardous based on several harmonized hazard data sources. These included the EU classifications for human health and environmental hazards conforming to the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS), i.e., classifications assigned by European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) under the Classification, Labelling and Packaging (CLP) regulation; EU classification as persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic (PBT) or very persistent, very bioaccumulative (vPvB) substance; identification as an endocrine disrupting chemical (EDC) under Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) legislation; and recognition as an EDC or potential EDC in the 2018 report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) (FPF reported).
These hazardous chemicals can be used or present in plastics as monomers, intermediates, solvents, surfactants, plasticizers, stabilizers, biocides, flame retardants, accelerators, and colorants, among other functions. In the next steps of the project, chemicals prioritized as candidates for substitution will be assessed in detail.
In an article by Anna Watson, published on July 19, 2018 by non-governmental organization CHEM Trust (on of the HCPP project partners), Michael Warhurst commented that “this study . . . highlights how many problematic chemicals are potentially in use, which raises concerns about how many different chemicals we could be exposed to and the need to understand what could be the effects of these mixtures.”
Anna Watson (July 19, 2018). “Hazardous chemicals and plastic packaging: What are the concerns?” CHEM Trust
Chemical Watch (July 24, 2018). “Substances in plastic packaging database published.”
Groh, K., et al. (2018). “Chemicals associated with plastic packaging: Inventory and hazards.” PeerJ Preprints (published July 13, 2018).