Toxic chemicals can enter food through packaging. We made a list.

Tom Neltner, J.D. and Boma Brown-West with Maricel Maffini and Michelle Mauthe Harvey

This is the second in a series evaluating the challenges in single-use food packaging waste.

In the late 1980s, the Council of Northeast Governors (CONEG) was concerned that heavy metals in packaging would accumulate in recycled materials to levels that presented serious health concerns. The organization drafted model legislation that prohibited the intentional addition of mercury, lead, cadmium, and hexavalent chromium to any component of packaging, including inks. It also set a 100 parts-per-million limit on the total amount of these four heavy metals. To ensure compliance, companies making packaging materials had to provide certificates of compliance to downstream purchasers and report compliance to the states.

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