Presentation by Ricard Vandellos - Vice President, Plastic Additives Europe, BASF Espanola S.L.
The industry and governments are rapidly imposing legislations and regulations to ensure consumer safety and ecological standards. At the same time the industry adapts materials to consumer needs and develops state-of-the-art test methods and production processes to ensure full compliance with new governmental legislations regarding consumer safety. In order to fulfill these growing demands on product safety, BASF is offering comprehensive analytical support for 160 of its pigments which facilitates the customers the safe use of these products in sensible plastic applications.
Convertors and brand owners facing high safety standards
Nowadays the plastics converting industry is serving a wider market and application scope where sensitive applications play a key role. Colored and stabilized plastics are replacing heavier materials driven by cost, weight, design and consumer safety. This includes medical and food plastic packaging, toys, hygiene products but also plastic water pipes.
At the same time brand owners are requiring the plastics converting industry to ensure full compliance and minimize cross contamination risk potentially incurred when producing products for sensitive applications in the same sites where non-sensitive application materials are produced. The availability of state of the art and ever more sensitive analytical methods has helped to raise the standards placed on sensitive applications and on product safety to heights like never before.
High requirements strict regulations
Legislators closely examine even the smallest of impurities in plastics, additives and pigments and have tightened the regulations for using these products. One example of current regulations is the EU framework regulation 1935/2004: Article three rules on the use of materials in contact with food, including pigments and additives and places more responsibility on the manufacturers along the product chain. New laws such as the EU regulation on toys stipulate the maximum permissible limits for impurities or tighten those that already exist.
Moreover, in individual EU member states, despite supranational standards, further regulations apply as well. The requirements of the American Food and Drug Administration, FDA, also continue to be of central importance for many users worldwide. In other markets, strict requirements by other industrial associations have to be met in Japan, for example, the ones of the JHOSPA, the Japan Hygienic Olefin and Styrene Plastics Association. China too has launched new food contact regulations. Added to this are the EH&S (environment, health and safety) criteria of large manufacturers of proprietary goods which once again surpass those demanded by the state. BASF is fully committed to enable its customers to fulfill the latest standards and the current and future legislation.
160 pigments for sensible applications
This commitment becomes evident in the portfolio changes perceptible with pigments which, in terms of figures, is the largest product group of the BASF plastic additives. In 2010, when the pigment portfolio included a total of 2000 products, BASF decided to review the full pigment portfolio optimizing the product range and ensuring the widest application scope by supporting 160 products that could be used in both sensitive and non-sensitive applications. By targeting a wide application scope, BASF enables a very significant risk reduction of cross contamination along the converting industry and across the value chain.
BASF has selected these 160 pigments to be supported for the use in sensitive applications, offering comprehensive analytical support and ensuring a reliable production footprint enabling the full compliance of this range. Moreover, BASF offers best-in-class support to assist its customers and the key stake holders along the value chain when they use pigments or additives in sensitive applications. The product portfolio optimization provides an optimum compromise between economic feasibility and the flexibility of the most extensive portfolio possible for sensitive areas of use.
The investment and effort associated is considerable. Pigments are solids which dissolve out of a plastic only with difficulty and moreover can rarely be converted to a bioavailable form. The pigments themselves are therefore not very risky with regard to their use in sensitive applications.
In order to search for undesired substances, the insoluble pigments are therefore prepared in accordance with all rules of chemical skill and investigated by means of the most modern analytical methods.
Recommendations after strict controls
If impurities are found, they are tested as to their possible toxicological significance and assessed using official criteria. A worst-case scenario is then considered which assumes an extremely unrealistic case in order to ensure the greatest possible safety: would the total content of a harmful substance in a customary pigment concentration in an LDPE film one millimeter in thickness and six square decimeters in size suffice to contaminate one kilogram of meat above legal limits? Here, it plays no role whether this substance could in fact ever migrate into the meat in this amount in practice.
Other so-called migration tests are in some instances carried out, where the products are rinsed for example with olive oil, alcohol or acetic acid in order to cover every possible application scenario in the food sector. If these tests are not fully meeting current legal requirements, the user is immediately informed that the product is not suitable for sensitive applications or application recommendations for use under very narrow conditions are advised which are able to ensure use without risk. At the same time, BASF is constantly working on optimizing the manufacturing processes of their pigments.
However, the conditions under which the pigment is processed by the user to yield the final product also play a role. For example, it is possible that harmless impurities in an additive will only decompose into more heavily harmful substances under harsh processing conditions. This information will be passed directly upon receipt by BASF to the customers as well. BASF also supports its customers in this regard by word and deed including the rare case that it becomes necessary to switch to a different pigment.
The plastics converter relying on BASF pigments for sensitive applications has the assurance that these products have already been tested in depth regarding to all corresponding regulations. He knows which potentially problematic ingredients he needs to pay attention to if he wishes to have his product certified, and is given advice on optimizing processing conditions in the interests of consumer safety.
BASF is continuously up to date on legislative developments around the globe in order to offer their customers maximum safety. This is flanked by a widely implemented random testing program in which BASF pigments are tested for traces of heavy metals, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB), volatile organic compounds (VOC) and other impurities and at increased intervals. The other additives from BASF are currently also included in the testing program. In this way BASF enables a long-term sustainable security for its customers in a new and growing sensitive market.
About BASF Plastic Additives
BASF is a leading manufacturer, supplier and innovation partner of additives and pigments for the plastics industry such as ultraviolet (UV) light stabilizers, antioxidants and process stabilizers, organic and inorganic pigments, effect pigments, and other additives.