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CA Regulators Eye Polyurethane Foam

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

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California's Department of Toxic Substances has moved to classify spray polyurethane foam as a "priority product," a proposal that has drawn criticism from some who manufacture and work with the product, which is used to insulate pipelines and other industrial substrates in addition to homes and commercial structures.

The Proposal

The agency initiated the proposal in March under the Safer Consumer Products program to list SPF based on its unreacted methylene diphenyl diisocyanates. If this listing is adopted, the designation would require manufacturers to complete an alternatives analysis and the DTSC could impose regulations.

Photos courtesy of Spray Polyurethane Foam Alliance

Industry organizations have piled up in the comments section for California’s Department of Toxic Substances Control’s proposal to name spray polyurethane foam as a priority product.

The proposal summary says that SPF has been put forth because “workers and consumers could be exposed to unreacted methylene diphenyl diisocyanates during normal use of spray polyurethane foam systems. Inhalation and dermal exposure to unreacted MDI is associated with adverse health effects, including asthma and allergic sensitization. People who become sensitized to MDI may also experience life-threatening asthma attacks when subsequently exposed to extremely low levels of isocyanates.”

The Responses

The comment period ended earlier this month, and among the 38 comments on the proposal, the Spray Polyurethane Foam Alliance, Insulation Contractors Association of America, North American Insulation Manufacturers Association and the American Chemistry Council, among other industry names, issued pages of responses speaking out against the proposal.

The ACC’s 60-page letter (on behalf of the council’s Diisocyanates Panel and the Center for the Polyurethanes Industry’s Spray Foam Coalition, called the listing “unwarranted and misdirected.”

“It is based on inaccurate characterizations of spray foam products, ignores safety practices, and fails to consider exposure profiles associated with their use,” the ACC letter reads.

It also claims that the DTSC has failed to meet the requirements of the SPC, such as proving that any exposures through SPF “contribute to or cause significant or widespread adverse impacts.”

The ACC’s 60-page letter, on behalf of the council’s Diisocyanates Panel and the Center for the Polyurethanes Industry’s Spray Foam Coalition, called the listing “unwarranted and misdirected.”

All of the organizations mentioned that there are already existing workplace controls and regulations on the product and argued that those are sufficient. NAIMA went a step further, however, saying the spray foam industry should partner with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to further public knowledge on the material.

A number of groups in favor of the listing, however, penned their own comments. The Natural Resources Defense Council, Communications Workers of America, Californians for a Healthy and Green Economy, Center for Environmental Health, Environmental Working Group and Worksafe said they are “in strong support” of the listing, and appointed out that workplace controls could fail or be inadequate.

What Happens Now

Priority Products aren’t final until they’re adopted into regulation, a process that goes through California’s Administrative Procedure Act, which says that in addition to the comment period, the DTSC has up to one year to finalize any regulations.

The comply with the SPC, there is also an Alternatives Analysis process, in which manufacturers must compare the chemical of concern in a priority product with potential alternatives that would make the product safer.


Tagged categories: American Chemistry Council; Coating Materials; North America; Pipeline; Regulations; Spray polyurethane foam; Spray Polyurethane Foam Alliance; Toxicity

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