TPCH Compliance Testing: U.S. States Address Safer Product Packaging

"Based on the experiences of regulated entities, it has become clear that packaging specifications and the assurance of suppliers are not enough to ensure the quality of packaging materials." -- Toxics in Packaging Clearinghouse (TPCH) Fact Sheet

The TPCH was formed in 1992 in response to the large amounts of heavy metals found in product packaging materials throughout the United States. The agency created the Model Toxics in Packaging Legislation, and coordinate its implementation for each participating state.

The four heavy metals considered are lead, mercury, cadmium, and hexavalent chromium.

Currently, 19 states have adopted the legislation that requires heavy metal compliance testing for all packaging and packaging components, along with a self-certified Certificate of Compliance. The 19 member states are California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.

The TPCH believes that violations of the law most frequently originate in overseas factories, and they recommend that all companies aiming to sell products within member states should develop a quality assurance program across their entire packaging supply chain, so that no facet of the overall packaging process goes unchecked.

Why is the Development of the TPCH Important?

Consumer concerns over safely-made products have generally become a leading factor for influencing whether or not they will buy a given product. With so many buying options for every kind of product (and with instant social media communication), consumers are in a powerful position to influence the market through socially conscious buying ethics.

State-level, national and international legislators have responded with stricter product safety laws to ensure consumer health and environmental protection. The mission of the TPCH is to promote a consistent approach to testing standards for the presence of heavy metals in product packaging.

Ultimately, the TPCH sees the risk of heavy metals used in packaging as an environmental risk, because packaging makes up about a third of the country's overall waste stream, and the presence of these heavy metals eventually find their way to incinerators (and into the air), as well as landfills (an into the groundwater).

Given these factors, the TPCH has already attracted a number of US states, and will likely continue to grow its membership, especially as neighboring states with interstate commerce interests feel compelled to adopt these standards as their own.

Your company devotes generous time, effort and resources towards making sure that the products are as safe as possible for your consumers and the environment. However, without a thorough, consistent approach to package testing outlined by the TPCH you may unintentionally undermine your efforts.

TPCH Requirements and Testing Specifications

Model Toxics Legislation prohibits the distribution of packages or packaging components in which the four listed metals have been intentionally introduced. For example, printing ink used for labeling cannot carry any amount of recycled lead. Companies are allowed two years from the time of the state's implementation to remove all intentionally introduced hazardous metals from the packaging.

The incidental presence of these four regulated metals refers to unintended trace amounts found in final packaging as a result of the manufacturing process. Starting from the time when a particular state introduces the legislation, allowable thresholds are gradually reduced:

  • 600 parts per million, 2 years after individual state enactment
  • 250 parts per million, 3 years after individual state enactment
  • 100 parts per million, 4 years after individual state enactment

These concentration limits apply to individual packaging components, such as the paperboard, inks and resins; and they should be tested separately to the extent that separation is possible.

Certificate of Compliance

Once testing is complete, all TPCH member states require that suppliers create a Certificate of Compliance that can be made available upon request, accompanied by supporting documentation. For every change in raw materials incorporated into your packaging, you are required to provide a new certificate to support the compliance claim of the updated packaging material.

The TPCH considers acceptable a Certificate of Compliance provided by your individual suppliers, but if they cannot provide one for you, then the responsibility is on you as the distributor and marketer to test your material and procure the certificate.

What are the Penalties for TPCH Non-Compliance?

Most member states choose to levy monetary fines for non-compliance. Some states choose to levy fines per non-compliant package, while others may pose a per day fine for a product found to be non-compliant. Regardless of the approach, the amount of fines can reach $10,000 for first offenses, and can double that for repeat violations.

As member states want their environmental laws to have teeth, the fines are steep - but a TPCH violation can bring even more costly losses to your company, such as damage to your brand reputation and consumer confidence. Consumers can very easily assume that, if your packaging material contains hazardous substances, so too might your products.

Establishing Quality Assurance Throughout Your Supply Chain

As we have discussed before, the TPCH explicitly recommends that you create a comprehensive supply chain QA program, so that no corners can be cut while producing safe, compliant packaging materials. Ultimately, the responsibility is on you to make sure that the finished packaging measures up to all state and national standards, no matter how far down the line your paperboard or labeling ink is supplied.

QIMA Quality Assurance services include:

  • Regulatory Research and Interpretation
  • Certificate of Compliance Services
  • Review of Your Model Toxics in Packaging Testing Program
  • Technical Training and Workshops
  • Product Standards and Specification Manuals
  • On-Site Line Reviews
  • Design Evaluations

Take the lead by establishing higher packaging production standards from the start, so that you can ensure an environmentally-minded product for your consumers.

Easily Schedule Your TPCH Compliance Tests Online

Our online platform and mobile application make it easy for you to schedule TPCH compliance testing, and receive your results at any time. Book new tests, view pending orders, and access results from your mobile device. Our online platform provides valuable supply chain insights, including a summary of your QC activity, all of your supplier’s quality stats, industry benchmarking data, and more.

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