Review of Packaging & Public Health

Environmental Health Perspectives has published a detailed and, in GallonDaily’s opinion, a balanced review of the potential health impacts of consumer packaging authored by a professor of preventive medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine.

The paper describes the benefits of consumer packaging as well as the potential chemical exposures from packaging. These latter include:

  • lead from glass
  • phthalates from PVC gaskets on the lids of glass bottles
  • phthalates from printing inks in recycled paper packaging
  • methylnaphthalene from coated paper in cereal boxes
  • BPA in can linings
  • adipates in PVC cling wrap

The author points out that “It is difficult to estimate the risk of chronic ingestion of contaminants from food packaging, as so little is known. It is even more difficult, at this point, to estimate any public-health impact that might result from that ingestion or to weigh the potential negative impacts against the known benefits related to reduced spoilage and microbial contamination.” The paper also quotes Koni Grob and colleagues of the Official Food Control Authority of Canton of Zürich, Switzerland, as stating  “While pesticides are thoroughly evaluated and well controlled in their use, only a small fraction of the substances migrating from food packaging have been evaluated—less than fifteen hundred—and the majority have not even been identified. If fifty to a hundred thousand substances migrate [from packaging into foods] at levels sometimes exceeding the threshold of toxicological concern, and if one out of a hundred substances harms our health, this is likely to cause serious damage.”

The paper, which GallonDaily recommends to anyone interested in packaging, is available at http://ehp03.niehs.nih.gov/article/fetchArticle.action?articleURI=info%3Adoi%2F10.1289%2Fehp.120-a232

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