The Urethane Blog

Regulatory Update

Industry speaks out against California spray polyurethane foam proposal

Products - PVC spray©brizmaker - Fotolia.comIndustry groups have united in opposition to California’s proposal to name spray polyurethane foam (SPF) containing diisocyanates as a priority product under the Safer Consumer Products (SCP) programme.

The agency initiated a formal rulemaking to list SPF systems with unreacted methylene diphenly diisocyanates (MDI) in March. If adopted, the designation would require manufacturers of such products to complete an alternatives analysis. The state’s Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) could subsequently consider imposing appropriate regulations.

In comments to the department, the American Chemistry Council said the proposed listing was “unwarranted and misdirected”, as it “is based on inaccurate characteristics of spray foam products, ignores safety practices and fails to consider exposure profiles associated with their use”.

It says the department oversimplified the breadth of technologies within the SPF category. And it says that the proposal fails to demonstrate how these various products present exposures that “contribute to or cause significant or widespread adverse impacts” – a criteria for prioritisation.

The DTSC, it adds, has “mischaracterised” several studies and “ignored” product stewardship, safety recommendations and industry practices that curtail potential exposure to MDI.

A coalition of four building, contractor and property organisations similarly urged the department to withdraw the proposal. “Unsupported by science, the listing of SPF insulation will jeopardise its use as an important tool that will help enable California to meet its ambitious energy efficiency and climate change goals,” they said in comments.

The Insulation Contractors Association of America (ICCA) said that existing workplace controls and regulations are sufficiently protective. The proposed regulation, it said, is “redundant and unnecessarily burdensome”.

Naima – the North American Insulation Manufacturers Association – agreed that in place of the proposed listing, the spray foam industry should partner with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (Osha) to form and “aggressively implement” a product stewardship programme to educate the public on possible health consequences of the material.

NGOs – alternatives needed

But a coalition of five NGOs – including the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Center for Environmental Health (CEH) and the Environmental Working Group (EWG) – said that workplace controls may fail or be inadequate, and that workers “continue to be harmed by SPF systems containing isocyanates”.

The groups added that Osha agencies do not require substitution of hazards, but rather seek to impose controls to manage them – as opposed to the SCP programme’s alternatives approach.

“The accurate and effective use of green chemistry is to identify and eliminate hazards before they have a chance to affect people or their environments,” they said.

The NGO Healthy Building Network added that while there are few direct chemical alternatives to the isocyanate formulation in SPF, there are many technologies on the market that can accomplish the same physical functions. These include a variety of insulation options and a wide range of caulking materials to air seal houses.

The nonprofit said the DTSC is “highly justified” in going forward with the alternatives assessment, given that eliminating the exposure could “have a tremendous benefit to many thousands of workers and occupants, without a negative impact on important energy considerations in the building”.

The proposal to list SPF and MDI as a priority product is the second initiated under the SCP programme. The first rulemaking – to designate children’s foam-padded sleeping products containing the flame retardants TDCPP or TCEP – is currently underway.