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New Study reveals Recyled Plastic Products are Contaminated with Deadly Chemicals
Friday, August 26, 2011
Toxics Link in collaboration with Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology (EMPA), State Secretariat for Economic Affairs SECO and Swiss Plastics Association is releasing an extensive study on plastic recycling across the city to measure one such widely used toxic chemical, brominated flame retardant (BFR) especially present in electronic products.
18 (41%) samples out of 44 samples collected from the recycling and moulding units were found positive for BFR and heavy metals like lead and cadmium. The observed concentration of BFR varied from 18.9ppm to 126.3ppm. Field study and lab research suggest that there is dispersion and dilution of these additives during recycling process.
BFRs in consumer products pose serious exposure risk particularly at the time of disposal. Although most plastics today, are recyclable, the recycled products become more hazardous than the virgin products. The study reveals that cross contamination by BFRs move into the environment and recycled products through recycling operations. Recycled plastic pellets used to manufacture new products contain these BFRs There is a huge market for the products made of the recycled pellets that are used by low cost manufacturers and sold across the country particularly in local Delhi areas.
Brominated Flame Retardants, especially PBDEs are persistent in the environment and are liable to contaminate the food chain, animals and human being. The capacity of PBDEs to bioaccumulate in fatty tissue and biomagnify up the food chain, in combination with their persistence and toxicity makes this class of chemicals of high concern to human health and environment.
Recycling in India is carried largely by the informal sector. Delhi is the largest recycling hubs with 7000 plastic processing units, in which around 2500 are recycling units employing close to 20000-25000 people directly. They are exposed to BFRs during the recycling process. These units lack occupational and environmental measures to control toxic emissions.
The study found workers engaged in recycling units lacked technical awareness about BFRs and did not follow safety measures. Absence of appropriate measures accelerates the chances of several persistent, bio-accumulative and toxic substances (PBT) including heavy metals and brominated flame-retardants, getting released in air, water and soil.
Satish Sinha, Associate Director, Toxics Link explains, "that this is the first kind of its study, proving beyond doubt that there are additives and contaminants present in them that are dangerous and hence require to be managed with due care. There is also a need for creating more awareness and information on this issue."
The study recommends a stringent look at recycling processes and better monitoring. It calls for an awareness creation among key stakeholders regarding the unsound environmental practices related to recycling of WEEE plastics. It also provides suggestion for safer handling, recycling and disposal of chemical laden WEEE plastics. Ultimately plastics need to be made without such chemicals.
Though there are regulations which impact plastic regulations indirectly, the country lacks any specific legal frameworks to address the plastic fractions from WEEE. However, India's Ministry of Environment have adopted new rules governing the management and disposal of plastic waste in 2011.
For more information please contact:
Satish Sinha, Associate Director, Toxics Link (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Priti Mahesh, Project Manager, Toxics Link (email@example.com)
Rambha Tripathy, Coordinator - Communication (firstname.lastname@example.org, 9811175042)