However, Bill Robert of the American Chemistry Council’s (ACC) diisocyanate panel said that ACGIH’s desire to cut the TLV limits is not supported by any of the scientific information it had when setting the original limits in 2004, and there has been no new rationale (data implying additional risk) since then.
“They saw that [the original TLV recommendation] reduced occupational asthma and thought lowering the limits further would reduce it again,” Robert said. “It’s not technically feasible to monitor at lower levels, as 1ppb strains the limits of technology.” There is a risk that these levels may be automatically adopted in Canada, and the ACC diisocyanates panel is looking to hire a lobbyist there.
PFA’s legal counsel Jim McIntyre said he cannot find the scientific basis for the decision in their report, either. “But [the new TLV is] there and our concern is that these levels are frequently adopted by other regulators. We are particularly concerned about the Occupational Safety and Health Administration,” he said.
“The new reference exposure limits adopted in California in March are another concern, particularly because they might be used by regulators across the country,” he added.
“We should pat ourselves on the back for the lack of citations for the industry,”
Bill Robert, American Chemistry Council
However, OSHA inspections showed very few issues arose in the polyurethane foam sector. Robert’s takeaway message was that there are some pretty good programmes in place in the industry. “We should pat ourselves on the back for the lack of citations for the industry,” he said.
PFA has also been kept very busy in the past year by state initiatives to ban or prohibit flame retardants in upholstered furniture. Legislation has already been introduced in 15 states and DC, with regulations and bans proposed in several more. The bills generally prohibit the sale of children’s products and upholstered residential furniture containing certain flame retardants. They also often prohibit the substitution of other products that are known to cause cancer or endocrine disruption.
Some of the bills give the departments the ability to add further chemicals to the list, and the bill in Massachusetts was amended at the last minute. The state’s Senate added bedding products, carpets and window treatments, with 11 flame retardant chemicals and the ability to add more in future. “I’m sure there will be some effort to change this bill in the House, but it happened very fast,” McIntyre said.
PFA has put together a model FR restriction bill, based on existing legislation in Minnesota, which has been adopted by the furniture coalition. Its goal is to achieve unified laws across the whole US, rather than the increased complexity of different standards from one state to the next.
The model bill applies to residential upholstered furniture and children’s products, and includes a specific, short list of restricted flame retardants. “There would be no label and no testing, and no creep,” PFA executive director Bob Luedeka said.
There is general agreement that the foam industry could support this kind of bill, trying to address some of the critical issues that would have a significant impact on the industry. “We wouldn’t oppose it,” McIntyre said.
Smoulder test concerns
A third topic of concern comes in the form of smoulder test standards. The ASTM E1353 smoulder test which permits any cigarette that meets physical performance requirements to be used, in contrast to other standards which require a specific standard cigarette from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to be used.
By the end of 2016, E1353 is due for renewal and there is concern that the NIST cigarette might be required. However, NIST charges a significant amount of money for its standard cigarettes, Luedeka said. “If you are performing cigarette tests on a daily basis, five or six days a week, this adds up to quite a bit of money,” he said.
“If you are performing cigarette tests on a daily basis, five or six days a week, this adds up to quite a bit of money,”
Bob Luedeka PFA executive director
A survey of stakeholders indicated that a reduction in cost to a more affordable level is essential if the NIST cigarette is to be mandated. “I have assured them that if they do this we will advance 1353 with their test cigarette.”
ASTM’s furniture flammability subcommittee E05.15, the home of the fire test standards which Luedeka said included a good spread of people from different backgrounds, including industry, was disbanded at the end of 2014. PFA pushed for its reinstatement and this was achieved towards the end of 2015, with a new set of officers. Luedeka is now its secretary.
PFA’s environmental profile
PFA is also working on multiple environmental topics. It is having an input into the National Science Foundation’s project on the responsible disposal of foam and plastic waste that may contain flame retardants. It is also working with the Carpet Cushion Council to get misinterpretations corrected in the Healthy Building Products Network’s recent draft guidance documents regarding carpet cushion and bedding that contain flame retardants. PFA provided a redline critique, and is hopeful that revisions will be made.