Heavy Metals and Toxic Materials Limits in Packaging

Date: Oct 29, 2007

The Coalition of Northeastern Governors (CONEG) has developed model legislation designed to phase out the use of mercury, lead, cadmium, and hexavalent chromium in packaging and packaging components. In addition, as a practical matter, 100 ppm is now the limit in all the states that have adopted CONEG legislation. One important feature of these packaging laws is that responsibility for compliance lies not only with packaging manufacturers or suppliers, but also with product manufacturers or distributors that use non-compliant packaging.1

There are 19 states with legislation based on, or similar to, the CONEG model legislation. These states are: California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin. In order to facilitate the consistent administration of the CONEG limits, ten of these states have formed the Toxics in Packaging Clearing House (TPCH). The TPCH serves as a central point for disseminating information about the CONEG laws, assessing the extent of packaging industry compliance, and spearheading enforcement initiatives.

On June 20, 2007, the TPCH announced the results of random tests of packaging funded under a grant by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Of 355 packages tested, 16% exceeded the 100 ppm limit, with cadmium and lead detected most frequently. The TPCH identified three reasons that restricted substances are present in packaging in excess of the specified limit well after the laws had been enacted. First, innovations in packaging, such as the use of circuit boards for marketing or other purposes, means that packaging components are being manufactured with "crossover" technology from industries that may not be familiar with packaging regulations. Second, packaging and packaging components increasingly are being manufactured abroad where legislation on toxics in packaging requirements may not exist and restrictions in other countries are not identified, properly translated, or understood. The TPCH also noted a certain amount of complacency among manufacturers and distributors as packaging requirements "fell off the radar" due to lax enforcement. As a result, increased enforcement of these limits is expected. For a more detailed discussion of CONEG and toxics in packaging, please see the articles below:

    To visit the official CONEG website, please click here.

    1See, e.g., Conn. Gen. Stat. § 22a-255i(c); Md. Code Ann., Water Ice and Sanitary Facilities § 9-1902(b).

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