TPCH routinely screens packaging for the presence of regulated metals using x-ray fluorescence (XRF) analysis.
"It's the most effective way to educate manufacturers and distributors about state toxics in packaging laws," according to Sharon Yergeau of New Hampshire's Department of Environmental Services. "Companies often assume they are in compliance with state laws because they have packaging specifications that require their suppliers to meet applicable laws."
PetSmart is among several companies to pay settlements to states following the discovery by TPCH of packaging in violation of state laws. Forever 21 Inc., a mall-based retailer, settled with the State of California in 2006 for $165,000 for distributing shopping bags that exceeded regulatory limits for lead. Similarly, a Barnes and Noble shopping bag led to enforcement by several TPCH member states.
Over the past several years, TPCH testing projects have demonstrated that manufacturers and distributors must be vigilant about their packaging materials, particularly when sourced from overseas. About 15 percent of retail packaging screened by TPCH in recent years exceeded state regulatory limits.
Lead and cadmium may be added to flexible PVC packaging as an inexpensive plasticizer or to inks and colorants to produce certain vibrant or longer-lasting colors. Although these substances may pose no threat to those handling the packaging, when the packaging material is disposed of in landfills or incinerators, these toxic metals can enter the environment and pose a risk to health and safety.
More information on the State of New Hampshire settlement with PetSmart is available in the State Attorney General press release. For more information on state toxics in packaging laws, contact Patty Dillon, Toxics in Packaging Clearinghouse, at 978-346-9462.