||Nineteen states, including the NEWMOA member states except Massachusetts, have Toxics in Packaging legislation that prohibits the intentional introduction of lead, mercury, cadmium, and hexavalent chromium in packaging. The result of a multi-state effort to limit the amount of toxic heavy metals entering the solid waste stream, the laws, most of which were introduced in the early 1990s, have been instrumental in changing industry practices and removing these persistent bioaccumulative toxins from packaging, and ultimately from entering the environment and adversely impacting public health. The laws were so successful that the European Union has adopted the same restrictions.
In the past year, member states of the Toxics in Packaging Clearinghouse (TPCH), which coordinates toxics in packaging laws on behalf of nine states, have been busy removing non-compliant packages from retail store shelves. In two cases, lead was the target. More specifically, in both cases, the packaging design included a blinking light powered by a battery that was attached to a printed circuit board with lead solder. This marketing feature is designed to catch the consumer’s eye in the retail store, but in these cases the products unintentionally caught the eyes of TPCH member states.
In the first case, the State of Connecticut issued a Notice of Violation to NBTY, Inc. for its Flex-A-Minâ product packaging under the state’s Toxics in Packaging statute. Flex-A-Minâ, a dietary supplement advertised to soothe joint pain, is commonly found on retail drug and general merchandise store shelves across the US . When notified of its violation, NBTY immediately halted further use and distribution of its packaging with the blinking red light. The company then worked with its sales force, distributors, and retail customers to replace the non-compliant packaging. The company also posted information on its website to alert customers to the problem with its packaging and the need to properly dispose of it. At the insistence of state regulators, customers were able to send the printed circuit board with blinking red light back to NBTY for proper disposal.
When, later in 2005, the TPCH discovered the same type of lead circuitry in the retail display box for Halloween candy necklaces and rings, member states contacted the manufacturer, Malibu Toys, Inc. Again, the company undertook a costly and time-consuming recall.
Prompted by such known and suspected cases of non-compliance and concern about the current level of awareness of Toxics in Packaging legislation, TPCH undertook a test program, funded by the EPA, to screen packaging for the restricted heavy metals. Results of the project will be made public in May 2006. In addition to screening products for heavy metals concentrations, TPCH has embarked on an extensive outreach campaign to inform the regulated community about the law and help them to come into compliance.
The TPCH helps coordinate the implementation of individual states' Toxics in Packaging laws and serves as a central location for processing information requests from external constituencies and promoting compliance. Of the 19 states with Toxics in Packaging legislation, nine states – Connecticut, Iowa, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Maine, and California – are members of the Clearinghouse.