Overview of known plastic packaging-associated chemicals and their hazards

Which hazardous chemicals are associated with plastic packaging?

The use of plastic packaging is increasing globally, causing environmental and human health concerns. In 2015 annual plastic production was 380Mt, of which about 40 per cent was used in packaging, with the majority being used in food packaging.

The 906 substances which are most likely to be associated with plastic packaging have been published on the Data Commons websiteAt least 148 of the 906 chemicals most likely to be associated with plastic packaging were identified as particularly hazardous based on several harmonized hazard data sources, and 35 of the chemicals listed are regarded as endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs), CHEM Trust reports.

2018 Study Highlights

  • Database of Chemicals associated with Plastic Packaging (CPPdb) is presented.
  • CPPdb contains chemicals used in manufacturing and/or present in final articles.
  • 906 chemicals identified as likely, 3377 chemicals as possibly associated.
  • Hazard data: CLP classifications, EDC, PBT, vPvB identifications explored.
  • Data gaps concerning both the use and toxicity of numerous substances identified.

Abstract

Global plastics production has reached 380 million metric tons in 2015, with around 40% used for packaging. Plastic packaging is diverse and made of multiple polymers and numerous additives, along with other components, such as adhesives or coatings. Further, packaging can contain residues from substances used during manufacturing, such as solvents, along with non-intentionally added substances (NIAS), such as impurities, oligomers, or degradation products. To characterize risks from chemicals potentially released during manufacturing, use, disposal, and/or recycling of packaging, comprehensive information on all chemicals involved is needed. Here, we present a database of Chemicals associated with Plastic Packaging (CPPdb), which includes chemicals used during manufacturing and/or present in final packaging articles. The CPPdb lists 906 chemicals likely associated with plastic packaging and 3377 substances that are possibly associated. Of the 906 chemicals likely associated with plastic packaging, 63 rank highest for human health hazards and 68 for environmental hazards according to the harmonized hazard classifications assigned by the European Chemicals Agency within the Classification, Labeling and Packaging (CLP) regulation implementing the United Nations’ Globally Harmonized System (GHS). Further, 7 of the 906 substances are classified in the European Union as persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic (PBT), or very persistent, very bioaccumulative (vPvB), and 15 as endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDC). Thirty-four of the 906 chemicals are also recognized as EDC or potential EDC in the recent EDC report by the United Nations Environment Programme. The identified hazardous chemicals are used in plastics as monomers, intermediates, solvents, surfactants, plasticizers, stabilizers, biocides, flame retardants, accelerators, and colorants, among other functions. Our work was challenged by a lack of transparency and incompleteness of publicly available information on both the use and toxicity of numerous substances. The most hazardous chemicals identified here should be assessed in detail as potential candidates for substitution.

Sublethal effect of agronomical surfactants on the spider Pardosa agrestis

Pesticide additives can weaken the predatory activity of a potential biological control agent

  • Spiders are abundant predators within agricultural ecosystems and can significantly reduce pest populations, bringing significant economic benefits.
  • Surfactants are a common component of pesticides.

Two chemicals used as co-formulants in pesticides have been found to reduce the predatory behaviour of the wolf spider Pardosa agrestis, an insect predator found within agricultural landscapes. A third co-formulant was found not to affect the predatory behaviour of females and increased the prey behaviour of male spiders. This is the first time that pesticide additives have been shown to alter the predatory activity of a potential biological control agent of crop pests.

Abstract

Sublethal effect of agronomical surfactants on the spider Pardosa agrestis, ScienceDirect, Volume 213, Pages 84–89, June 2016.

Wolf Spider by Thomas.

In addition to their active ingredients, pesticides contain also additives – surfactants. Use of surfactants has been increasing over the past decade, but their effects on non-target organisms, especially natural enemies of pests, have been studied only very rarely.

The effect of three common agrochemical surfactants on the foraging behavior of the wolf spider Pardosa agrestis was studied in the laboratory. Differences in short-term, long-term, and overall cumulative predatory activities were investigated.

We found that surfactant treatment significantly affected short-term predatory activity but had no effect on long-term predatory activity. The surfactants also significantly influenced the cumulative number of killed prey. We also found the sex-specific increase in cumulative kills after surfactants treatment.

This is the first study showing that pesticide additives have a sublethal effect that can weaken the predatory activity of a potential biological control agent. More studies on the effects of surfactants are needed to understand how they affect beneficial organisms in agroecosystems.

Surfactants, an overlooked potential environmental hazard of pesticide formulations

Pesticide additives can weaken the predatory activity of spiders

Surfactants are a common component of pesticides. They are conventionally mixed with liquid pesticides in order to increase dispersal of the pesticide through plant cuticles or to reduce the surface tension of insect exoskeletons, meaning the surface is unable to repel the liquid pesticide.

The use of surfactants has increased globally over the last decade, with global consumption of these chemicals increasing at a rate of 5% annually. Possible cumulative effects with other compounds of a pesticide on non-target insects are subject to a risk assessment ahead of authorisation, but the impact of surfactants alone on the range of non-target insect species is rarely studied. Recent research has indicated that surfactants alone may have an even more negative effect on insects than pesticides themselves, including on beneficial species such as pollinators.

Pesticide additives can weaken the predatory activity of spiders, Science for Environment Policy News Alert, 17 June 2016.

Spiders are abundant predators within agricultural ecosystems and can significantly reduce pest populations, bringing significant economic benefits. However, spiders are also highly susceptible to non-specific agricultural chemicals, which are designed to target a wide range of insects. In this study the researchers assessed the effect of three common agricultural surfactants on the predatory behaviour of the wolf spider Pardosa agrestis. The wolf spider (Lycosidae) is a common species with potential value within agricultural systems as a natural biological control agent of pest species.

Sublethal effect of agronomical surfactants on the spider Pardosa agrestis, ScienceDirect, Volume 213, Pages 84–89, June 2016.

Wolf Spider by Thomas.

In a laboratory experiment, male and female wolf spiders were exposed to three surfactants commonly used as herbicide additives in agriculture:

  1. Wetcit®,
  2. Šaman®
  3. Trend 90®.

Eighty spiders were sorted by sex (36 males, 44 females) and assigned to four random experimental groups, each consisting of 20 individuals. Each of the three herbicide additives was applied to one group and the fourth group was a control.

The surfactants were diluted with distilled water and sprayed directly onto the spiders. The control group was sprayed with distilled water only. The concentrations of the surfactant solutions were: 0.2% for Šaman®, 0.1% for Trend 90®, and 0.15% for Wetcit®. Both short- and long-term predatory activity of the spiders was studied, as surfactants can persist for a long time in the environment (from 30 days to 8 months). The predatory activity (number of fruit flies killed) of the spiders was assessed in the immediate four hours (shortterm) following surfactant exposure and over the four days following exposure (long-term).

The surfactants had no lethal effects on the spiders treated. There was also no significant long-term effect on the predatory behaviour of the spiders. However, in the short term there were significant impacts on predatory activity. Spiders of both sexes in the Šaman® and Trend 90® treatments killed significantly fewer flies than did those in the control group. Differences in predatory behaviour were found only during the first day of the study. No effects were found from the second to fifth day.

For the Wetcit® treatment, the effect was sex specific. Males in the Wetcit® treatment killed significantly more flies than males in the control treatment, while females were not significantly influenced. This increase in the predatory rate of males may be due to a stimulatory effect of low doses of a toxicant. However, the researchers caution that the long-term impact on the spider’s ecology may still be negative and further research is necessary to understand this result.

The researchers suggest that surfactants may be an overlooked potential environmental hazard of pesticide formulations within agricultural areas. The researchers therefore recommend further research into the impacts of surfactants on natural pest predators such as the wolf spider.