Baltimore, Maryland — The year since the last Center for the Polyurethanes Industry (CPI) meeting in Florida has been one of intense state-based legislation and regulation aimed at PU or components in PU formulations, CPI senior director Lee Salamone said ahead of the 2016 Polyurethanes Technical Conference.
In an interview with UTECH-polyurethane.com Salamone said: “We had a very busy state legislative season on flame retardants. There was legislation in 16 states and regulatory activity in five. It hasn’t targeted the PU rigid sector, they’re really focusing on individual flame retardants in the furniture and the children’s product markets.”
The CPI is part of the American chemistry Council (ACC) and she explained: “ACC has a very well-targeted strategy. CPI and the downstream users are trying to form a coalition to try and prevent a state-by-state patchwork of restrictions and regulations.
"We are trying to make sure that chemicals are managed on the basis of risk, which includes exposure, while trying to explain to the legislators that it’s really not good to ban alternatives without having an assessment on them.”
Salamone added that lobbying by the ACC helped prevent the enactment of a number of laws which would be very difficult to enforce.
Turning more directly to rigid polyurethane she said that California was particularly good at starting to look at these materials. She added: "In California some very active NGOs are trying to change the [building] codes to eliminate the need for flame retardants. They’re trying to echo the success they had in furniture.”
In the foam and furniture sector, Salamone explained, NGOs “persuaded the legislature to change the performance rule so flame retardants were no longer needed. They’re trying to do this with a number of insulation products such as under the [floor] slab.
“They try to demonstrate that flame retardants don’t work; that they are not needed and that they leach into the soil,” she concluded.
“We believe that flame retardants work, and to meet the code, you need to have fire safety standards. This can be done in a number of ways, but taking the best tool out of the toolbox is not the best way to do it.”
“I think we are making progress in not having something arbitrary decided, but the process isn’t finished,” she said.
Nationally, in the flexible space, the US consumer product safety commission (CPSC) received a petition from another NGO group asking for California TB 117 to be adopted as a national flammability standard for furniture.
“The CPSC is still considering this,” she explained, adding that “the staff position was that this should not be adopted” partly on grounds that the test is difficult to perform and it is difficult to reproduce.
The overarching piece of legislation in America which has controlled the safety of chemicals used has been the Toxic Substance Control Act, which was updated earlier this year.
Salamone welcomed the Lautenberg Chemical Safety Act update: “This should lead to clarity with a single standard for many things. And the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) needs to prioritise its list of 10 chemicals. At some point isocyanates, along with every use of the chemical, will be prioritised and the EPA will get to it in its own good time,” she said.