Additives in polypropylene and polylactic acid food packaging: Chemical analysis and bioassays provide complementary tools for risk assessment

Plastic food packaging represents 40 % of the plastic production worldwide and belongs to the 10 most commonly found items in aquatic environments. They are characterized by high additives contents with >4000 formulations available on the market. Thus they can release their constitutive chemicals (i.e. additives) into the surrounding environment, contributing to chemical pollution in aquatic systems and to contamination of marine organism up to the point of questioning the health of the consumer. In this context, the chemical and toxicological profiles of two types of polypropylene (PP) and polylactic acid (PLA) food packaging were investigated, using in vitro bioassays and target gas chromatography mass spectrometry analyses. Plastic additives quantification was performed both on the raw materials, and on the material leachates after 5 days of lixiviation in filtered natural seawater. The results showed that all samples (raw materials and leachates) contained additive compounds (e.g. phthalates plasticizers, phosphorous flame retardants, antioxidants and UV-stabilizers). Differences in the number and concentration of additives between polymers and suppliers were also pointed out, indicating that the chemical signature cannot be generalized to a polymer and is rather product dependent. Nevertheless, no significant toxic effects was observed upon exposure to the leachates in two short-term bioassays targeting baseline toxicity (Microtox® test) and Pacific oyster Crassostrea gigas fertilization success and embryo-larval development. Overall, this study demonstrates that both petrochemical and bio-based food containers contain harmful additives and that it is not possible to predict material toxicity solely based on chemical analysis. Additionally, it highlights the complexity to assess and comprehend the additive content of plastic packaging due to the variability of their composition, suggesting that more transparency in polymer formulations is required to properly address the risk associated with such materials during their use and end of life.


Food containers, Plastic, Additives, Leachates, Bioassays

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Akoueson Fleurine, Paul-Pont Ika, Tallec Kevin, Huvet Arnaud, Doyen Périne, Dehaut Alexandre, Duflos Guillaume (2023). Additives in polypropylene and polylactic acid food packaging: Chemical analysis and bioassays provide complementary tools for risk assessment. Science Of The Total Environment. 857 (Part.2). 159318 (12p.).,

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