Plan for Chemical Hit List Sparks Heat
Industry manufacturers are objecting to a California plan that would target toxic chemicals used in paint stripper and spray polyurethane foam.
Paint strippers containing methylene chloride and spray polyurethane foam (SPF) systems containing unreacted ("uncured") diisocyanates are two of the three products newly targeted by the state's Department of Toxic Substances.
The first-ever draft "Priority Products" list is aimed at consumer goods that each contain at least one toxic chemical with the potential to significantly harm people or the environment, DTSC announced March 13.
But associations representing the products' manufacturers say federal agencies have already taken steps to warn about dangers the chemical pose and ensure their safe use.
Methylene chloride is a known carcinogen and neurotoxin that has been linked to multiple deaths; diisocyanates can irritate the respiratory tract, cause asthma and cancer, and are known skin irritants.
On Tuesday (March 18), the American Coatings Associations called the regulations "particularly burdensome and problematic for many in the regulated community ... and for DTSC as well."
While ACA's primary membership consists of paint manufacturers and raw-material suppliers, some of its members likely manufacture paint strippers and SPF. ACA says it will work with its members "to address any impacts arising from the current DTSC initiative."
ACA noted that paint strippers containing methylene chloride are "clearly marked" with detailed consumer warnings that were developed and advanced by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission in 1987.
The coating makers' group previously said it was "apprehensive that one chemical of concern in one product of concern could impact thousands of coatings formulations."
"This is not a ban. We are starting a conversation with manufacturers," said DTSC Director Debbie Raphael.
"This is not a ban," DTSC says. The agency wants manufacturers to consider alternatives.
Raphael said the agency is "signaling to manufacturers to examine their products and find safer alternative ingredients."
"The impact of this initiative will be significant," Raphael added.
DTSC says it could take up to two years to finalize the initial Priority Products list, which isn't official until the rule-making process is complete. That process won't begin until later this year and could take up to a year to complete.
Once the list is finalized, manufacturers will have to notify the state if they make a product containing one of the named chemicals, followed by conducting an "Alternatives Analysis" to determine if safer ingredients are available and feasible.
DTSC will then use the findings to determine if there should be a regulatory response. Regulators expect to analyze and make rulings on three to five products per year.
DTSC is planning a series of public workshops with stakeholders, tentatively scheduled for May 7 in Sacramento, May 28 in Oakland, and a date TBD in Los Angeles.
The Spray Polyurethane Foam Alliance also stated its disappointment in the draft list, saying it has "consistently, openly and transparently" collaborated with federal agencies over the last five years on the safe use of spray foam ingredients and systems.
SPFA says the plan "undermines the desire among California private and professional customers for a safe and effective building product that delivers on performance."
SPFA says exposure during SPF installation is already addressed by governent and industry worker safety initiatives and regulations.
SPFA also accuses the state agency of creating "concerns and confusion around SPF in their inexplicable references to the product."
The manufacturers note, for example, that while the state proposal refers to "wet or uncured" SPF, that is a temporary state of the product during application. Exposure during installation, the group says, is currently addressed by industry and government worker safety initiatives and regulations.
Prior Warnings Issued
Last June, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced a new National Emphasis Program targeting isocyanates.
OSHA has had methylene chloride standards in place since 1997 and has linked more than 50 worker deaths to the chemical since the mid-1980s, primarily from its use in poorly ventilated spaces.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a warning about its use in February 2012, after linking at least 13 deaths in a two-year period to excessive exposure.
Cal/OSHA issued a Fatality Alert about methylene chloride in March 2012, after a painter died in a tank while using a paint stripper that contained at least 60 percent methylene chloride.