A brand new report by the Toxics in Packaging Clearinghouse has documented elevated levels of toxic cadmium and lead in PVC packaging sold by dollar-store discount retailers.  They found that:

This is the symbol of PVC packaging. Just remember Bad News Comes in 3’s – Don’t Buy PVC!

“Almost 40 percent of imported PVC packaging of products tested, sold by discount retail chains, was found to violate state toxics laws… These packages contained cadmium or lead, which are restricted by laws in 19 states due to toxicity.” – TPCH press release

“Packaging in violation of state laws is likely not one-time sourcing or production mistakes, but rather appears pervasive in imported PVC packaging,” – Kathleen Hennings of Iowa Department of Natural Resources.”

PVC packaging violates laws in 19 states.

No less than nineteen states have laws that prohibit the sale or distribution of packaging containing intentionally added cadmium, lead, mercury, and hexavalent chromium, and set limits on the incidental concentration of these materials in packaging. The purpose? To prevent the use of toxic heavy metals in packaging materials that enter landfills, incinerators, recycling streams, and ultimately, the environment.  The Toxics in Packaging Clearinghouse has been working to implement and enforce these laws.

In their latest report released this past Friday, a total of 61 flexible PVC packaging samples were screened using XRF technology. 39% of the packaging samples failed the screening test for cadmium and in one instance, also for lead. All the failed packaging samples were imported, mostly from China.

Packaging that failed the screening tests was used for children’s products, pet supplies, personal care, household items, home furnishings, hardware, and apparel.  The products were purchased at eight retail chains across America.  Six of the eight retail chains operate at least 500 locations each across 35 or more states.

Not the first time PVC packaging contaminated with toxic metals

This isn’t the first time the Toxics in Packaging Clearinghouse has documented PVC packaging laden with toxic heavy metals.  In 2007, they published a report which found sixty-one percent of the PVC packages tested were not in compliance with state laws due to the use of cadmium and/or lead. In 2009 they published a follow up report which found that all packaging samples failing for cadmium content were flexible PVC, and over 90 percent of these were imported.

Other studies have documented other chemicals of concern in PVC packaging, including phthalates, organotins, bisphenol A (BPA), and adipates.  Unfortunately, these were not tested for in the brand new study, and are also likely lurking in PVC packaging at retailers.

Is cadmium the new lead?

In recent years, the vinyl chemical industry has been moving away from lead as a stabilizer, but apparently has been replacing lead with cadmium and organotins.

There’s a body of evidence that cadmium may be the new lead. Like lead, cadmium has been linked to learning problems in school children, which are on the rise.  A recent study by researchers from Harvard found children with higher cadmium levels are three times more likely to have learning disabilities and participate in special education.

Our friends at SAFER have compiled lots of great information on cadmium, including a summary of cadmium’s health concerns.

Just Remember – Bad News Comes in 3’s, Don’t Buy PVC

Thankfully, it’s not too hard for consumers to identify and avoid PVC/vinyl packaging, to help reduce your exposure to cadmium and the other toxic additives commonly found in vinyl.

One way to be sure if the packaging of a product is made from PVC is to look for the number “3” inside or the letter “V” underneath the universal recycling symbol.   If it is, that means it’s made out of the poison plastic.  That’s why we say Bad News Comes in 3’s – Don’t Buy PVC!

Not sure? Call the manufacturer or retailer and ask them directly.

Have some PVC packaging? Return it to the manufacturer or retailer and demand they go PVC-free!

To help you remember, watch this animated video we created a few years ago– Sam Suds and the Case of PVC, the Poison Plastic.