The PMA helps its members stay abreast of regulatory changes and lobby to ensure that regulation is sensible and appropriate as Sarah Houlton found out
An important part of PMA’s work is helping its members negotiate the complex landscape of US environment, health and safety laws and regulations. It has been a particularly busy year on the regulatory front, according to PMA’s lawyer, Don Gallo of Husch Blackwell.
Reach in Europe has been joined by TSCA in the US. ‘It’s spreading round the world,’ he said. ‘It addresses chemicals on two fronts – they are looking to ban or restrict the use of certain chemicals. The restriction generally comes down to training and protective measures for the use of these chemicals.’
TCSA and Reach
Isocyanates and the curing agent 4,4’-methylenebis(2-chloroaniline), or MOCA, represent perhaps the two greatest concerns for the cast polyurethane industry, and a guide on working safely with isocyanates and MOCA in polyurethane casting shops can be downloaded for free from the PMA website, by members and non-members alike. ‘We want to make sure people are using these chemicals safely and properly,’ Gallo said. ‘We don’t want to have an isolated incident occur that causes government to want to regulate these chemicals more strictly.’ He added that the US has always had a self-regulation system, and PMA provides information about using these chemicals safely to prevent government action.
Also on the MOCA front, PMA is helping to fund an exposure study in the UK, being run by BRPPA. The study, on cancer incidence and exposure to MOCA, has the aim of monitoring the occurrence of cancer in a cohort of UK-based workers who are manufacturing polyurethane elastomers using MOCA. ‘It is thought to be carcinogenic, but there is not a lot of data,’ Gallo said. ‘A lot of animal studies show it to be carcinogenic, but this study is intended to address human exposure specifically.’
The study is looking at 308 male production workers employed for at least a year in one of seven factories, who were first employed there between 1973 and 2000; in the first instance their mortality and cancer incidence was assessed between 1997 and 2007. ‘Many had extraordinarily high exposures to MOCA,’ Gallo said. The results published in 2009 indicated that the mortality from all cancers combined was below expected, as was the incidence, he said, but there was a non-significant excess of bladder cancer and this needed to be followed up.
PMA is now sponsoring an update to the study, eight years on, which has just begun. This will see how the incidence has changed in the intervening time. ‘This is incredibly important, and we will keep our members updated,’ Gallo said.
The association also submitted comments to the public consultation on ECHA’s proposals to deem MOCA a substance of very high concern. ‘The Reach document Annex XV is a very thorough list of the positive and negatives of MOCA exposure,’ Gallo said. ‘There are alternatives but they are not fully comparable to MOCA, either from the chemistry or the financial point of view. Industry has focused on the safe use of MOCA.’ A final decision is expected in November, he says.
At the table
He added that, in its response, PMA felt compelled to rebut some of the anti-MOCA information, and asked processors to comment on alternative systems and how workable or feasible are alternative systems from their point of view. ‘It was also really helpful to organise these materials so when TSCA and other world agencies go ahead with similar discussions, we will be prepared,’ he said.
The biggest wider issue facing the industry regarding TSCA is whether it will use sound science in its assessments, he added. ‘ACC is involved in making sure EPA uses sound science in the evaluation of chemicals,’ he said. For example, EPA is proposing to ban certain uses of trichloroethylene due to health risks when used as an aerosol degreaser.
Massachusetts proposal SB 474 is also causing concern, as it recommends that TDI should be designated a higher hazard substance. ‘I think we are going to see a number of state bills like this,’ he said. Other examples where legislation is already being drafted include California, Maine, Minnesota, New York, Oregon, Vermont and Washington.
He concluded that while President Trump is doing his best to cut enforcement, the industry should not let its guard down. ‘He’s clearly trying to reduce the strength and power of EPA and OSHA,’ he said. ‘There was a proposed 51% cut in enforcement, but the budget extension reduced this to a minimal amount, but he is also reversing a lot of regulations that, frankly, hurt our industry.’
The technical committee’s biggest achievement in the past year was the publication of PMA’s ASTM reference guides, according to chair Scott Archibald of Coim USA.
‘Developed in conjunction with the ASTM international standards group, it is a targeted reference guide for the polyurethane industry that contains 61 ASTM tests that are regularly used in the cast elastomer urethane industry,’ he said. Both hard copies and electronic versions are available for purchase.