Plastic pallet company defiant in face of DecaBDE phase-out pact

By Rory Harrington

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: United states environmental protection agency

A company that makes plastic pallets containing toxic chemical DecaBDE said it will not withdraw them despite a pledge from several companies to phase out use of the substance over serious health concerns.

Intelligent Global Pooling Systems (iGPS) told FoodProductionDaily.com that its pallets, which are commonly used to transport food products, are safe for use and would be “unaffected”​ by the voluntary agreement reached with the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to end the chemical's use within three or four years. The firm uses decabromodiphenyl ether (DecaBDE) as a flame retardant on the pallets. It said there was no risk of the substance leaching into the food carried on its platforms.

The statement from iGPS came on Friday as the EPA unveiled the agreement with several companies to eliminate the chemical from its products. The US body described DecaBDE as “a persistent and toxic chemical”.

Steve Owens, EPA assistant administrator for the Office of Prevention, Pesticides and Toxic Substances, said: “Though DecaBDE has been used as a flame retardant for years, US Environmental Protection Agency has long been concerned about its impact on human health and the environment.”

He said research had demonstrated decaBDE persists in the environment, potentially causes cancer and may impact brain function.

“Today’s announcement by these companies to phase out decaBDE is an appropriate and responsible step to protect human health and the environment,”​ added Owens.

Bill to ban DecaBDE

On the same day, US Congresswoman Chellie Pingree introduced a bill to outlaw the chemical for use as a flame retardant by 2013, while highlighting plastic pallets as a potential hazard.

“It is estimated that almost 100 million pounds of deca-bromine may be used in the manufacture of plastic pallets in the coming years,”​ she said in a statement. “These plastic pallets are used primarily to transport food and deca-bromine-laden dust from plastic pallets has the potential to come into contact with food and food packaging.”

Pingree said she was encouraged by the voluntary accord reached with industry but vowed to press on with the bill as “the chemical industry hasn’t always lived up to voluntary agreements”.​ She said DecaBDE had been linked to various health risks, including intellectual and physical developmental problems in children, and compromised immune systems and interference with reproductive hormones in adults.

Earlier this year, the Environmental Working Group urged the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to ban the plastic pallets containing DecaBDE because of health concerns that the toxin could leach into food.

iGPS stance

Despite, the growing opposition to the use of DecaBDE, company chairman and CEO Bob Moore said that its current fleet of pallets, and those made during the phase-out period, were unaffected because “existing products containing DecaBDE may continue to be used indefinitely”.​ He added the pallets could also be recycled “in perpetuity”.

“Extensive testing by independent laboratories has documented that the DecaBDE encapsulated in the resin of iGPS pallets does not migrate to packaging stored on iGPS pallets; nor does it migrate to food products within that packaging,”​ said Moore. “Customers can continue to utilise iGPS pallets with complete confidence.”

The iGPS head said that while manufacturers of the chemical believed it was safe, they thought they could “develop superior alternatives”​ by the end of 2013. Moore said his company would evaluate its future options but said its products would continue to be safe.

Related topics: Food Safety & Quality

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