Friday, December 14, 2012

Ecology continues to work to reduce toxics in products

By Dr. Alex Stone, Hazardous Waste and Toxics Reduction

Ecology worked with the Toxics in Packaging Clearinghouse to release a study documenting the results of testing for toxics in vibrantly colored plastic bags. Specifically, the study evaluated the inks and colorants used in the bags for the presence of four toxic metals — lead, chromium, mercury, and hexavalent chromium.

The Clearinghouse is an association of nine states with similar legislation limiting the amount of these four metals in packaging and packaging components to a total concentration of 100 parts per million. The Clearinghouse was formed by the member states to share resources, provide support to businesses attempting to eliminate toxic metals from their products and coordinate sampling, and evaluation of products for these metals of concern.

The Clearinghouse tested 125 colorful plastic bags from member states across the United States. The bags were scanned using X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF), a non-destructive technique that allows metal concentrations to be determined within two minutes. Any bags found to fail the 100 parts per million limit using the XRF were sent to a laboratory for confirming analysis.

Out of the 125 bags tested, only three were found to exceed the limit. Two bags were from Washington State and one from Iowa. Representing Department of Ecology, I told the manufacturers and retailers about the problems with these plastic bags after learning that the bags were no longer being used. By informing them of the problem, Ecology was able to prevent it from occurring again, thereby reducing the amount of toxic metals found in this type of packaging.

Furthermore, the relatively small number of bags found to contain unacceptable levels of toxic chemicals was at a new low for a Clearinghouse sampling effort. This shows that the states’ efforts to eliminate the use of these toxic metals is gaining success.

For more information on the study, the Clearinghouse has issued a press release and the study has been posted on their website. If you have additional questions, contact me, Dr. Alex Stone, either via email or phone at 360-407-6758. Or visit Ecology’ Toxics in Packaging website.

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