Each year, over 350 million tonnes of plastic (many of which are used in the food industry) are produced worldwide. According to researchers at the University of Zurich in Switzerland, these plastics contain a wide variety of chemicals that can be released during their life cycle, including substances that pose a significant risk to humans and the environment. .. However, only a few of the chemicals in plastics are publicly known or widely studied.
For the first time, a team of ETH researchers edited a comprehensive database of plastic monomers, additives and processing aids used in the manufacture and processing of plastics on the global market and systematically categorized them based on usage patterns and hazards. Claims to have done. Potential.
The team has identified about 10,500 chemicals in plastics. 2,109 were used for food contact applications. Packaging (2,489), textiles (2,429); also for medical devices such as toys (522) and masks (247).
Of the 10,500 substances identified, researchers classified 2,480 (24%) as potential concerns. Among food contact applications, 679 is a potential concern.
Of the 679 substances of concern for food contact applications, the following have been identified:
- 528 High Production Volume Chemicals, 434 Unregulated Chemicals, and 52 Chemicals without scientific reference.
- 9 is persistent and bioaccumulative, 120 is carcinogenic, 51 is mutagenic, 132 is reproductive toxicity, 300 is toxic to specific target organs, 404 is toxic to aquatic organisms, 22 is endocrine disruptor.
- 119 substances of unknown or variable composition (UVCB), 131 containing metals, 507 (partially) organic, 13 containing silicon, 23 containing phosphorescence, 77 containing sulfur, 92 containing halogen (bromine) , Chlorine, fluorine, etc.)
Of the 2,109 chemicals used, the following are:
- 513 substances of unknown or variable composition (UVCB), 402 contains metals, 1682 is (partially) organic, 69 contains silicon, 90 contains phosphorus, 226 contains sulfur, 214 is halogen ( Contains bromine, chlorine, fluorine, etc.).
“This means that almost a quarter of all the chemicals used in plastics are very stable, accumulate in living organisms, or are toxic. These substances are in aquatic organisms. It is toxic and can cause cancer or damage certain organs. “Helen Wiesinger, chair of ecological systems design, a PhD student and lead author of the study, said. About half are high-yielding chemicals in the EU or the United States, she said.
“It is particularly impressive that many of the suspicious substances are rarely regulated or vaguely described.”Wiesinger has been added.
Surprisingly, despite its highly problematic harmful properties, 901 substances of concern are also on the positive regulatory list for use in food contact plastics, of which 225 are EU approved. The study claims that it has been done.
In total, 53% of all potentially worrisome substances are not regulated in the United States, EU, or Japan.
Also, surprisingly, about 350 substances of potential concern are negative (eg, permits required for specific uses and bans in specific applications) and positive (ie, in food contact plastics). Approved for use) will appear in both regulatory lists. For example, the EU and South Korea permit the use of dibutyl phthalate (CASRN 84-74-2), while the EU, the United States, and Japan have approved the use in food contact plastics.According to researchers, this regulatory discrepancy “For example, we need to take appropriate action through close cooperation between regulatory disciplines and agencies.”
Finally, there is a lack of scientific research on about 10% of the identified substances of potential concern.
“To date, research, industry, and regulators have focused primarily on the limited number of dangerous chemicals known to be present in plastics.”Wiesinger added that today plastic packaging is considered a major cause of organic pollution in food.
“Unexpectedly many potential concerns are worrisome.”Zhanyun Wang, a senior scientist in Hellweg’s group, has been added. Exposure to such substances can adversely affect the health of consumers and workers, he said, and problematic chemicals also affect the safety and quality of the recycling process and recycled plastics. He added that there is a possibility.
Two researchers identified the lack of transparency of chemicals in plastics and distributed data silos as the main problem. With more than two and a half years of detective work, they have examined more than 190 publicly accessible data sources from research, industry and authorities, and 60 sources with sufficient information about substances intentionally added to plastics. Has been identified. “We have found several important knowledge and data gaps, especially with respect to substances and their actual use. This ultimately prevents consumers from choosing safe plastic products.”They added in their research that they are pursuing the goals of a sustainable circular plastic economy.
Details of plastic monomers, additives, and processing aids
Environmental science and technology
Helene Wiesinger, Zhanyun Wang, Stefanie Hellweg 2021
https://www.foodnavigator.com/Article/2021/07/21/Study-reveals-unexpectedly-high-number-of-concerning-substances-in-plastic-products?utm_source=RSS_Feed&utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=RSS Research reveals the number of “unexpectedly high” concerns in plastic products