Are we at risk from Pneumatically Inflated Packaging?

Are We At Risk from Pneumatically Inflated Packaging?

Whether through casual, unintentional contamination, or through purposeful vector exploitation, are we at risk from Pneumatic Packaging products?

When products are shipped to us most will contain added packaging. Foam Beans/Peanuts, Bubble Wrap or Inflated Air Pillows dominate ad hoc packaging and are commonly received by many households several times a month.

What happens to this packaging? In some cases we hold them to reuse, though commonly we will dispose of excess. Foam Beans/Peanuts may be the biodegradable type that “melt” in water. Bubble wrap gets rolled up and thrown out, with the bubbles sometimes being popped – specially if kids or the young at heart have a chance.

But larger scale Pneumatic Packaging products – air bags, air pillows – are almost always popped before disposal, and through this popping transfer a significant volume of gas from one place to another.

The technology is attractive to shippers – a machine inflates a rolled plastic pillow chain, sealing it into the familiar linked air pillows, at the shipper’s packaging site. A typical machine, like the Sealed Air Corporation’s Cyclone http://www.sealedair.com/products/protective/air/fillair_cyclone.html is a very efficient method of producing packaging in the shipping room.

The Pneumatic Packaging systems get away from bringing in and handling large-volume low-weight packaging materials, they use inexpensive materials and they create large volumes of conforming impact resistant packaging using a small amount of electricity and no cost air.

It is that “no cost air” that has potential inadvertent vectorization or exploitation as a delivery system.

The substitution of a prepared filler gas appears to be an easy exploit, and would allow delivery of significant volumes of gas or gas borne hazard.

As people are unalarmed if they receive a package with leaking or a flat pillow or two in the packaging, it is entirely feasible to prepare the packaging to “leak” the contents of one or more pillows when the package is opened, or to slowly outgas from inflation until exhausted on a continuous basis.

In the inflated form the perm-rate (through skin leakage) is fairly low, as many examples of Pneumatic Packaging products can maintain pressure for months, if not years.

A binary component delivery could be as simple as boxing packaging filled with the two components in the same box. Various release mechanisms could supplement the ad hoc end-user bursting the packaging for disposal.

Vector delivery could range from exceptionally fast acting products, such as explosive or contact agents, to delayed action products including some potential for biohazard delivery.

As it is not presently possible to specify no Pneumatic Packaging, and given the risk of vectorization of other packaging, the personal response to disposal of Pneumatic Packaging may be limited to incineration on an ad hoc casual basis.

If vectorization has been exploited it can be expected that most shippers will suspend the product usage, being otherwise faced with consumers returning the packaging rather than risking exposure to the contents.

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