Which aluminum containers are safe to ship?
Posted On July 21, 2021
The United States is the world’s largest producer of aluminum containers, and it is a leader in aluminum shipping container use, especially for domestic shipments.
The aluminum containers used for domestic shipping are often made of a lightweight material, called polyethylene terephthalate, which is a high-strength polymer that is widely used in the manufacture of other materials.
Polyethylene is commonly used to make insulation, but aluminum containers aren’t.
“The material used for aluminum containers is lightweight and is also very flexible,” the U.S. National Safety Council told Congress in 2010.
The federal government’s Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act, or SBWTEA, was passed in 1972 and was intended to protect Americans from unsafe levels of lead in drinking water and metals in the environment.
The law required that lead levels in drinking-water be at “safe” levels, and metals from coal mining were to be at a level of “low” or “low-risk” or below.
The metals in polyethylie used in these containers are often recycled, and they are sometimes labeled as “alloys,” meaning that they are “made of an alloy or combination of metals.”
The aluminum container industry claims that its aluminum containers don’t pose any risk to human health, and that the use of polyethylenes for containers does not pose any safety risks.
In a statement, the U,S.
Department of Agriculture (USDA) claimed that the aluminum container market was a $2.2 billion industry in 2014.
“A large number of commercial aluminum containers manufactured by a large number, including General Mills, are used in U. S. domestic and foreign markets for domestic and international commerce,” the USDA said in a statement.
The American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM) found that, “The use of aluminum-containing containers for container shipping has been on the rise in recent years, as demand for container containers for home and personal use has increased.”
In addition, the ASTM said that aluminum containers “have the ability to absorb up to 2,500 pounds of lead per cubic foot of volume and up to 15,000 pounds of mercury per cubic meter of volume.”
According to the Aluminum Container Manufacturers Association, the industry “is making strides in reducing lead contamination, reducing mercury exposure, and minimizing the impacts of lead on the environment.”
Aluminum container manufacturers are using polyethylenated polyethylbenzene (PEPBE), a polyethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (PEA) that is often used in home and kitchen products.
According to its manufacturer, PEPBE is safe, and “it can be used to provide a durable, lightweight and flexible material.”
However, the aluminum industry is also using PEPBe to make aluminum containers.
The U.K.-based Aluminum Container Institute claimed that its “multi-use aluminum containers can be safely used in industrial applications” and that PEPBES “are a good choice for industrial use.”
The American Chemistry Council (ACSC), an industry trade group, also said that PPEBES is safe.
“PEPBETS can be mixed with water and it’s a very safe solution for recycling,” ACSC said in its statement.
However, an organization called the National Center for Environmental Health said that “most studies show that aluminum in the United States, in particular in the container form, can cause health problems.”
The Center for Food Safety, a consumer advocacy group, said that the “high levels of mercury in aluminum containers pose health risks to consumers and the environment, and the EPA has identified aluminum as a major contributing factor to air and water pollution.”
The Food and Drug Administration said in 2013 that it had found “possible links” between aluminum exposure and lead exposure in aluminum container shipments.
However the agency didn’t identify the exact amount of mercury and lead in aluminum, nor did it provide any evidence of any link between aluminum container exposure and health issues.
A spokesperson for the U.,S.
Office of the Inspector General (OIG) said that it “conducts extensive reviews of lead and mercury exposure data for the container industry and does not provide specific information on the safety of the materials.”
In October 2017, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) issued a report that concluded that aluminum container use is not linked to health problems, and did not recommend changes in packaging.
The CPSC concluded that the public has a “reasonable expectation of safety from lead, mercury, and polyethylylene, and its presence in aluminum packaging is minimal.”
However the CPSC noted that “the CPSC’s review of lead exposure data did not identify any specific risks to human or other animals that may be associated with aluminum use.”
It also noted that there is no evidence of lead poisoning in aluminum shipment containers, but that “in the U.’s aluminum supply chain, aluminum can leach lead and other metals into the environment from its manufacturing process.”