By Mike McNulty, Rubber & Plastics News
Las Vegas -Another round of battles concerning the polyurethane curative methyl-bischloroaniline, commonly called MOCA, could be coming.
The European Union is moving ahead with REACH legislation that would ban MOCA in countries that adopt the EU regulations, according to Donald Gallo, legal counsel for the PMA (Polyurethane Manufacturers Association) and an attorney with the Waukesha, Wisconsin-based law firm of Reinhart Boerner Van Deuren S.C.
Meanwhile, the European Chemicals Agency has selected MOCA from its list of very high concern substances and recommended it for inclusion in Annex XIV, he said.
Should MOCA end up in Annex XIV, the curative would be banned without the authorisation of the EU and other countries that adapt REACH legislation, he said at the Polyurethane Manufacturers Association annual conference, held recently in Las Vegas.
There is fear within the association that the US Environmental Protection Agency, via the Toxic Substance Control Act, and the Canadian government could adapt the REACH approach in banning the use of MOCA, according to Gallo.
At the very least, the REACH plan could "impose onerous restrictions at some point in the future on the way to an eventual ban," said Mike Kocak, the incoming president of the PMA and quality assurance manager of C.U.E. Inc., headquartered in Cranberry Township, Pennsylvania.
"We are very concerned because it threatens the use of a chemical that is important to our business, and … we are taking steps to develop information that addresses expressed and legitimate concerns that have been raised by the EU," Gallo said.
In addition, the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists probably will lower the Threshold Limit Values/Short-Term Exposure Limits for TDI (toluene diisocyanate) to the point that monitoring badges currently in use will not be usable, Kocak said.
"Our concern is that lack of affordable, consistent individual monitoring that the badges provided may make the exposure situation worse, not better," he said.
The ACGIH establishes the TLVs for chemical substances and currently lists more than 600 chemical substances and physical agents in its annually published "Documentation of the Threshold Limit Values," he said.
The TLV for chemical substances is defined as a concentration in air, typically for inhalation or skin exposure, Kocak said.
The PMA has developed programmes for the safe use of MOCA in the US and Canada, including employee urinalysis monitoring for which the organisation has between 30 and 40 years of monitoring data, Gallo said.
The programmes include work surface swipe testing to address dermal contact and include information on proper protective clothing and ventilation in the work place.
Worker exposure can be minimised by following the PMA's suggested safe work practices, Kocak advised.
The association encourages all of those who use MOCA to download and use both the PMA's publication "MOCA Safe Use Guidance for the Castable Polyurethane Industry" and its companion piece, "Working Safely with Isocyanates and MOCA in Polyurethane Casting Shops."
Because of the economics of other curatives and the properties of MOCA, "we feel the need to protect MOCA as a curative for the sake of the castable polyurethane industry," according to Gallo.
If the cost of castable polyurethane increases, the PMA's legal counsel said, the markets will adjust and demand may decrease.
"We have conducted tests on articles (or finished parts) made from castable polyurethane and have found the levels of free MOCA in a fully cured article to be quite low and well within acceptable levels over quite a range of curing methods and cure times," Gallo said.
The PMA plans on providing information to regulators that demonstrates "best management practices can be used and are currently being used to protect employees and the community," he said.
Not long after the PMA was formed in the early 1970s, the use of MOCA was threatened by government agencies that attempted to ban the polyurethane curative.
The trade association took on the Environmental Protection Agency, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration and other entities and won numerous battles that followed.