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Polyethylene (PE)

POLYETHYLENE is the most widely used plastic in the world. Its primary use is in packaging, including food packaging such as boil-in food packages, heat sealed films and pouches, and squeezable bottles. It is also used to make children’s toys.

Because of its widespread use, both in the general public and to workers, polyethylene has been extensively reviewed by regulatory authorities. Polyethylene has been determined to be non-hazardous by normal routes of exposure including skin contact, inhalation, and ingestion.

Polyethylene is known to be an inert and chemically-neutral material. It is not considered hazardous and is not regulated in the workplace or in transportation.

And it can be made from a variety of feedstocks, from petroleum to biomaterials such as sugarcane.

It is favored by environmental groups all over the world.

Clean Production Action named polyethylene one of the “most benign” plastics in their Plastics Scorecard, which evaluates the hazardous effects of various plastics.

The Globally Harmonized System (GHS) classification for polyethylene is “non-hazardous.”

The Hazardous Materials Identification System (HMIS) Health rating for polyethylene is “0”.

According to its Safety Data Sheet, polyethylene has not been found to be carcinogenic by the National Toxicology Program (NTP), the Association Advancing Occupational and Environmental Health (ACGIH), the International Agency for Reserch on Cancer (IARC) or the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).  

GOTS-Approved Polyethylene

Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) approves certain non-agricultural materials for use in making GOTS-certified products that are primarily made from organic agricultural materials. These “approved” materials must meet the portion of their standard that prohibits a whole list of toxic chemicals. “GOTS-Approved Polyethylene” is polyethylene that qualifies to be used in GOTS-certified organic products because it does not contain any of the prohibited chemicals listed in Section 2.3 of Manual for the Implementation of the Global Organic Textile Standard.

This makes polyethylene one of the few plastics approved by GOTS for the making of the incidental “accessory” pieces needed to construct a quality product.


Polyethylene Safety Data Sheet

Nova Chemicals Product Risk Profile: Polyethylene

Encyclopedia Brittanica: Polyethylene


In this Knowledge Base, i'm gathering together bits and pieces of information about materials used to make products, and bringing some order to them so we can all better understand what's in our products. So many pages will be incomplete as I go through this process. When I feel I've put together a fairly complete picture of the material, I'll take down this notice from this page.

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