Wednesday, April 24, 2024

‘High presence of toxic chemicals in recycled plastic’

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While India is pushing for plastic recycling to address plastic waste, a study conducted in Delhi has revealed a high presence of toxic chemicals in recycled products such as children’s toys and food contact materials.
The study, conducted by the independent research and advocacy organisation Toxic Links, focused on five major chemicals known for their detrimental impact on human health — phthalates; chlorinated paraffins; heavy metals such as palladium, chromium, cadmium, and arsenic; bisphenol A; and nonylphenol.
“The use of recycled plastic without any regulations is emerging as a major cause for concern across multiple sectors. This is due to the presence of often toxic chemicals in these plastics, which remain through the recycling process and are evident in the finished products,” according to the study, released on Tuesday.
The field study showed that plastic recycling is extensively carried out in the informal sectors.
Toxic Links’ previous work on the issue had also shown that such informal plastic recycling exists in most cities across the country.
The recycling units surveyed during the study were not following any established safety norms or standards related to the recycling process.
In molding units, where recycled pellets are used for manufacturing new products, quality and safety checks are not conducted on the possible chemicals in the recycled pellets nor their suitability for manufacturing.
When these units recycle plastic material into pellets, there are no processes to remove chemical additives.
These pellets are then used to make a range of new consumer products, such as toys, food containers or kitchen utensils.
“This raises serious concern as these products thus contain huge exposure risks. Food contact materials, toys or other products made of these recycled pellets have the possibility of exposing the users to many toxic chemicals, especially when these products have a high likelihood of coming into contact with the mouth,” the report said.
Most of these recycled plastic products are cheaper than branded products of similar nature and, hence, are likely to be bought and used by lower-income groups or marginalised populations.
These populations are more susceptible to health impacts as their nutrition levels might be lower and access to good healthcare limited, said Priti Mahesh, Toxic Links’ chief programme coordinator.
The study examined 15 samples, of which more than 60 per cent were found to contain the chemicals. The majority of these products were picked up from various markets, indicating their widespread availability.

Most of the chemicals detected were higher than the permissible limits (global standards, as India does not have standards for any of the aforementioned chemicals), Toxic Links said.
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