European Scientists Create Hazardous Plastic Packaging Database

European scientists have reported in that a collaboration of academic scientists in Europe and the US and seven NGOs have worked together to identify the hazardous chemicals that are likely found in plastic packaging. The grant that funded the study was from MAVA Foundation, a charitable organization based in Switzerland.   The collaboration’s outcome is the Chemicals associated with Plastic Packaging (CPP) database or CPP DB.

The database, which has been published, lists over 4000 chemicals that are commonly used as raw materials in plastic packaging manufacturing.  They are the plastic packaging materials that are used in making shampoo containers, as a sandwich wrapper, as a wrapper of toys and other finished products.

At least 148 of the 4000 plus chemicals listed are considered as hazardous to the environment and to human health.  Thirty-five of the hazardous substances are called

endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) or chemicals that are potentially harmful to the hormone system. EDCs include bisphenol As (BPA) and some phthalates, which are restricted in certain products in Europe.

The research paper has been submitted to the Journal, Science of the Total Environment. It is available including the database as a preprint for peer to peer review.

The project team plans to post the research paper to the Chemical Hazards Data Commons website although it is a “work in progress” with a lot of data gaps. Interested may help reduce the data gaps, which are mostly about the uses and toxicity of the listed chemicals.  The team considers the information from industry workers, regulatory authorities, and stakeholders essential for finding the efficient and effective substitutions for the hazardous chemicals.

Other uses of listed chemicals

The hazardous chemicals in the database are not only used in producing packaging materials. They are used in a wide range of applications as biocides to prevent molds, as flame retardants, dyes, plasticizers, adhesives and other uses.

Chemical hazard groups

The team grouped some of the chemicals and specified their hazards to the user and the environment.

  1. Bisphenols

Three types of bisphenols are listed – bisphenol F and bisphenol S and BPA.

Bisphenols are the material used as lining in cans for food and drinks, as rigid
plastics additives and in the production of used in the production of clear
polycarbonate plastic and other plastic-related materials. Bisphenols are also known
as EDCs.

2. Hazardous Metals
    These are metals in additives to plastics. Four of the metals – mercury, cadmium,
lead and chromium (VI), are carcinogens that are considered highly contagious
because they can harm a person’s sexual function and fertility.

  1. Phthalates

    The list includes 14 phthalates.  They are used as plasticizers and are considered
hazardous for being associated with obesity and reproductive disruption.

  1. Per- and polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS)
    Two PFAS are included in the study. PFOA, one of the chemicals is considered
    hazardous because of its reproductive toxicity.


The Food Packaging Forum’s Managing Director, Dr. Jane Muncke said that the study still lacks information about how each hazardous chemical is used, a harmonized toxicology data, the amount used and how much of the chemicals are present in the manufactured plastic packaging product.  She said that the information gaps have to be addressed urgently to be able to find suitable substitutes for safe plastic packaging products.

CHEM Trust Executive Director, Dr. Michael Warhurst said that industry players and regulators should find real and safer alternatives instead of substituting one chemical with another in the same groups.

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