Recycled Cardboard Good For Earth, May Be Bad For Health

Turns out something as innocuous and well-meaning as recycling your newspaper may end up producing some unintended consequences down the line.

Swiss researchers have discovered that toxic mineral oils from recycled newspapers can be absorbed by foods commonly packaged in cartons made from recycled cardboard. Some samples of pasta, rice and cereal had mineral oil content of up to 100 times higher than the agreed upon safe limit, according to the BBC.

As a result, U.K. cereal company Jordans has put an end to using recycled cardboard in its packaging. Kellogg's is working with its suppliers on an alternative, and Weetabix told the BBC it is exploring the use of recycled packaging that is free of recycled newspaper.

However, even switching to other types of packaging may not alleviate the problem, according to lead researcher Koni Grob, since the cartons are stored and shipped in larger cardboard boxes that also contain recycled newspaper content.

From the BBC:

"In one study for the German food ministry last year he and his colleagues tested a sample of 119 products bought from German supermarkets.

 

They found mineral oils passed easily through many of the inner bags used to keep food dry and fresh.

The longer a product stood on the shelves, the more mineral oil it was likely to absorb.

Dr Grob told the BBC: 'Roughly 30 products from these 119 were free of mineral oil.

'For the others they all exceeded the limit, and most exceeded it more than 10 times, and we calculated that in the long run they would probably exceed the limit 50 times on average and many will exceed it several hundred times.'"

Some studies have suggested a link between mineral oil exposure and cancer and internal organ inflammation in studies, but exposure would likely have to be long-term to pose a risk. 

Image CC licensed by Flickr user mroach.