A government-appointed expert committee, in a report to the National Green Tribunal (NGT), has said there is no conclusive evidence that polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles used for pharma packaging are harmful to humans.
Uttarakhand-based non-governmental organisation Him Jagriti had petitioned NGT to restrict sale of PET containers, alleging these bottles leached harmful chemicals such as phthalates and heavy metals into the substances inside, due to India's extreme variations of temperature.
Hearing the petition, the NGT had noted that the Central Pollution Control Board and the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation had also sought a ban on using PET bottles or plastic containers for primary packing in liquid oral formulations. The green court had asked the government to set up a committee to study the science behind this issue.
The recommendations of the committee have come as a relief to India's Rs 4,000-crore PET packaging sector. "Within a robust regulatory system and process, with clearly defined standards and requirements, the use of PET as a packaging material for pharmaceuticals can be practised with assurance of safety," said the committee, led by M K Bhan.
Of 600,000 tonnes of PET production, the pharma sector uses 16 per cent, accounting for around 100,000 tonnes a year.
To address public concerns and to strengthen the regulation for packaging and waste management, the committee has recommended a series of additional tests. However, "these tests have been requested to assure public concerns and not because of any doubt in the committee about the scientific basis of safety of PET packaging", the report said.