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The Container glass industry in India has received a shot in the arm as an Indian government study has found five different toxins — heavy metals antimony, lead, chromium and cadmium and the compound DEHP or Di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate — in cold drinks produced and packed in PET bottles by two major multinational companies, PepsiCo and Coca Cola.

The results of the test, conducted in February-March this year, but for which the results have just been made available, also show a significant increase in leaching with the rise in room temperature. The study, commissioned by the Indian Health Ministry body, the Drugs Technical Advisory Board (DTAB), found that these toxins leached into five cold drink samples picked up for the study — Pepsi, Coca Cola, Mountain Dew, Sprite and 7Up — from the PET bottles they were in.

PepsiCo India and Coca Cola India declined to respond to Asian Glass queries. While Query sent to PET Container Manufacturers Association remained unanswered. While there are no permissible limits for heavy metals in cold drinks, the tests found 0.029 milligrams per litre (mg/L), 0.011 mg/L, 0.002 mg/L, 0.017 mg/L and 0.028 mg/L of antimony, lead, cadmium, chromium and DEHP, respectively, in Pepsi. In Coca Cola, 0.006 mg/L, 0.009 mg/L, 0.011 mg/L, 0.026 mg/L and 0.026 mg/L of the aforesaid heavy metals, respectively, were found. The results were similar for Sprite, Mountain Dew and 7Up.

The leaching of these heavy metals — from the PET bottles in which the drinks were packaged — increased with the rise in room temperature. For example, at normal room temperature, the tests found 0.004 mg/L and 0.007 mg/L of lead in 7Up and Sprite, respectively. However, when it was kept at 40 degree Celsius for 10 days, the lead increased to 0.006 mg/L and 0.009 mg/L, respectively.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) considers lead and cadmium two of the top ten chemicals of “major public health concern”. According to the WHO, children are particularly vulnerable to harmful effects of lead. “Lead can have serious consequences for the health of children. At high levels of exposure, Lead attacks the brain and central nervous system to cause coma, convulsions and even death. Children who survive severe lead poisoning may be left with mental retardation and behavioural disorders,” the WHO has noted.

As pressure builds on the glass packaging industry globally, perhaps the intervention of such a report will provide some welcome respite.

Happy New Year!

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