Toxics in Packaging Clearinghouse to Evaluate Laboratory Testing of Glass Packaging

Date: Oct 13, 2011

The Toxics in Packaging Clearinghouse (TPCH) is preparing to undertake a study of laboratory capabilities to analyze lead in glass packaging. Nineteen states have adopted legislation developed by the Coalition of Northeastern Governors ("CONEG") phasing-out the use and presence of mercury, lead, cadmium, and hexavalent chromium in packaging.[1] Specifically, these laws: (1) prohibit the intentional addition of these four heavy metals in packaging and packaging components; and (2) limit the sum of incidentally introduced lead, mercury, cadmium, and hexavalent chromium to 100 ppm by weight.[2] Manufacturers and suppliers must also provide certificates of compliance to purchasers. The TPCH facilitates implementation of these statutes.

In this study, the TPCH will be evaluating inter-method consistency between portable x-ray fluorescence (XRF) and conventional analysis using acid digestion under a $50,000 grant from the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC). At present, many laboratories are reluctant to perform the conventional analysis because of the potential harm presented by hydrofluoric acid to technicians and instrumentation. Consequently, the DTSC is eager to promote the use of XRF, if it is demonstrated to be accurate. The TPCH report is expected in Fall 2012.

We understand that the TPCH is interested in receiving samples of contaminated glass cullets to use in the study. The TPCH has advised us informally that they would be willing to receive the samples anonymously, either through our firm, or some other mechanism. The notion here is that broad participation by the glass packaging industry would help ensure that XRF is suitable for a variety of glass packaging formulations and contamination levels. The TPCH has also indicated that it would entertain nominations, anonymous or otherwise, to include specific laboratories in the study. Otherwise, the pool of laboratories may be limited.

We also chatted informally with the DTSC to better understand the reason for this test. The Department confirmed its earlier public announcement that it will provide the TPCH's results to stakeholders as technical guidance on best practices for compliance testing.[3] Industry should take note: California's last "outreach" to packaging manufacturers included a request for copies of all certificates of conformity from all packaging manufacturers known to the DTSC to operate in California. In that case, the state worked cooperatively with non-compliant companies to bring them into compliance. While there is no reason to suspect that California would not be similarly cooperative regarding glass packaging, this should serve as a reminder that beyond the sample cullet, manufacturers should have a QA/QC process in place to ensure their glass packaging is in compliance with the lead limits.

This study follows a round robin study of laboratory consistency in analyses of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) matrices, released by the TPCH in July of this year. That study found significant variability in the detected amounts of lead and cadmium, likely due to inconsistent sample preparation techniques. Our summary of the issues identified by that report is available on our website.

For more information on state toxics in packaging laws, heavy metal testing, and related matters, contact JC Walker (202 434-4181, walker@khlaw.com).

[1] The 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.