Thursday, May 23rd, 2013

Newly Introduced Bipartisan “Chemical Safety Improvement Act” Garnering Applause From All Sides

Yesterday in Washington, D.C., Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) and Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) announced they had reached what is being termed a groundbreaking agreement to revamp the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). Indeed, the Chemical Safety Improvement Act of 2013 (CSIA) that they have introduced in the Senate is groundbreaking in several ways.

Despite widespread agreement that TSCA was not an effective solution to the testing of tens of thousands of chemicals found in consumer and industrial products, the Senate had been deadlocked for roughly the last two decades on how to test and regulate them.

Not only does the CSIA look ready to break that gridlock, it comes with significant bipartisan support, which everyone knows is very difficult to obtain for anything in today’s political climate. Besides Senators Lautenberg and Vitter, there are 14 other Senators co-sponsoring the Act, seven Republicans and seven Democrats. All told there are eight Senators from each side of the aisle sponsoring this long-needed reform.

Add to that the reaction from the business sectors that stand to be most impacted by the proposed Act, which has been broadly and strongly positive. William R. Carteaux, President and CEO of SPI: The Plastics Industry Trade Association issued the following statement regarding the introduction of this legislation:

U.S. Senator David Vitter (R-LA; center), is shown with Jon Kurrle (left), SPI Senior VP, Government & Industry Affairs, and Bill Carteaux, SPI President & CEO during the Plastics Hall of Fame event at NPE2012, SPI’s triennial trade show and conference held in Orlando, FL.

U.S. Senator David Vitter (R-LA; center), is shown with Jon Kurrle (left), SPI Senior VP, Government & Industry Affairs, and Bill Carteaux, SPI President & CEO during the Plastics Hall of Fame event at NPE2012, SPI’s triennial trade show and conference held in Orlando, FL.

“On behalf of SPI members and the entire U.S. plastics industry, I want to thank Senators Lautenberg and Vitter, as well as the other cosponsors, for the leadership and determination they have displayed in crafting a groundbreaking, bipartisan bill.  The legislation is a true milestone, and shows that the charged political environment inside the beltway need not take a back seat to consensus building.

SPI has long advocated TSCA updates that embrace 21st century scientific and technological advances, while enhancing the ability of the U.S. plastics industry to develop and utilize essential materials.  The Chemical Safety Improvement Act of 2013 encompasses a broad spectrum of stakeholder viewpoints, and I am hopeful that its introduction will usher in a new era of cooperation in the collective pursuit of TSCA modernization.”

Cal Dooley, President and CEO of the American Chemistry Council (ACC) was equally positive in his statement: “The business of chemistry creates the building blocks for 96 percent of all manufactured goods and is a key driver of the U.S. economy. Reforming TSCA in a way that supports safety, jobs and innovation is important for American consumers, U.S. chemical producers and American businesses of all kinds, as well as their workers. These principles are at the foundation of the CSIA.”

The co-sponsors of Lautenberg-Vitter “Chemical Safety Improvement Act of 2013″ include U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Charles Schumer (D-NY), James Inhofe (R-OK), Tom Udall (D-NM), Susan Collins (R-ME), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Joe Manchin (D-WV), John Boozman (R-AR), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), and John Hoeven (R-ND).

Thursday, November 29th, 2012

Once Again Fear Mongering Catches Fire, Spreads Fast

Yesterday, November 28, 2012 provided a striking example of how unfounded fear can spread across the Internet faster than a wildfire. The subject this time was flame-retardants (

e” href=”http://flameretardants.americanchemistry.com/Home-Furnishings/Fire-Safety-Requirements” target=”_blank”>FRs

), a class of chemicals that helps save lives and property during fires. FRs are not plastics, our usual topic, but they are used with plastics in numerous applications. This one is furniture—couches.

Yesterday a paper titled “Novel and High Volume Use Flame Retardants in US Couches Reflective of the 2005 PentaBDE Phase Out” was published online by Environmental Science & Technology, an American Chemical Society publication. The paper’s seven authors are from three well-known universities.

The paper’s abstract notes that California’s TB 117 furniture flammability standard is considered the main reason why chemical flame retardants (FR) are used in U.S. residential furniture. There is no federal standard.

It then says that since the phase-out of the flame-retardant PentaBDE in 2004-2005, alternative FRs have been used to meet TB 117, but it was unclear what they were. Therefore, the authors collected 102 samples of polyurethane foam from residential couches bought in the U.S. from 1985 to 2010, studied them, and found flame-retardants in 85% of them.

After naming the FRs found, and noting an increased number of FRs are now on the market, the abstract closes with, “Given these results, and the potential for human exposure to FRs, health studies should be conducted on the types of FRs identified here.”

The American Chemistry Council responded with this statement:

This study confirms what we would expect to find: Furniture manufacturers use flame-retardants to meet established fire safety standards, which help save lives. There is no data in this study that indicate that the levels of flame-retardants found would cause any human health problems.

“Statistics show that home fires from open flame ignition sources are still a significant problem. Flame-retardants can be an effective way to meet fire safety standards, and are designed to prevent fires from starting, and if a fire does occur, slow its spread and provide valuable escape time. Indeed, one recent analysis, using data from a National Institute of Justice arson study, showed flame retardants in upholstered furniture can provide valuable escape time. It’s important to remember that flame retardants

currently in use, like all chemicals, are subject to review by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and national regulators around the globe.”

So it would seem open and shut, no big deal. But not if you saw the headline of Duke University’s press release: “Potentially Toxic Flame Retardants Found in Many U.S. Couches.” Mainstream media and the blogosphere saw it and reacted quickly. Before daylight on the East Coast, a wildfire of fear was spreading across the Internet, with headlines like these feeding the flames:

Toxic flame retardants common in household couches -Los Angeles Times‎

Dangerous for kids’ pajamas, safe for sofas? -Chicago Tribune‎

New Flame Retardants, Other Replacement Chemicals, Pose Same … Problems As Predecessors. -Huffington Post

Research: Toxic chemicals in your living room -CNN (blog)

Toxic Chemicals in Furniture Linked to Cancer, Other Health Risks … …Unfair to Manufacturers, Retailers. –MarketWatch/The Wall Street Journal

Duke: Bad chemicals in home sofas -Triangle Business Journal (blog)

All the stories convey variations of one message: Be afraid, be very afraid, in this case of flame-retardants, about which the average citizen knows virtually nothing. But don’t look in the press release or these articles for facts that would inform readers or at least justify the headlines. The last line of the abstract indicates that no studies that would generate the

facts have been done.

The release and the articles use words such as “may pose risks”, “probable”, “suspected”, and “has been linked to”, but never “this causes that.” Why bother? The writers already know their readers are afflicted with chemophobia or plastiphobia, so if the facts disagree with what they believe, they will ignore or deny them.Rich Text AreaToolbarBold (Ctrl / Alt+Shift + B)Italic (Ctrl / Alt+Shift + I)Strikethrough (Alt+Shift+D)Unordered list (Alt+Shift+U)Ordered list (Alt+Shift+O)Blockquote (Alt+Shift+Q)Align Left (Alt+Shift+L)Align Center (Alt+Shift+C)Align Right (Alt+Shift+R)Insert/edit link (Alt+Shift+A)Unlink (Alt+Shift+S)Insert More Tag (Alt+Shift+T)Toggle spellchecker (Alt+Shift+N)▼
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Yesterday, November 28, 2012 provided a striking example of how unfounded fear can spread across the Internet faster than a wildfire. The subject this time was flame-retardants (FRs), a class of chemicals that helps save lives and property during fires. FRs are not plastics, our usual topic, but they are used with plastics in numerous applications. This one is furniture—couches.
Yesterday a paper titled “Novel and High Volume Use Flame Retardants in US Couches Reflective of the 2005 PentaBDE Phase Out” was published online by Environmental Science & Technology, an American Chemical Society publication. The paper’s seven authors are from three well-known universities.
The paper’s abstract notes that California’s TB 117 furniture flammability standard is considered the main reason why chemical flame retardants (FR) are used in U.S. residential furniture. There is no federal standard.
It then says that since the phase-out of the flame-retardant PentaBDE in 2004-2005, alternative FRs have been used to meet TB 117, but it was unclear what they were. Therefore, the authors collected 102 samples of polyurethane foam from residential couches bought in the U.S. from 1985 to 2010, studied them, and found flame-retardants in 85% of them.
After naming the FRs found, and noting an increased number of FRs are now on the market, the abstract closes with, “Given these results, and the potential for human exposure to FRs, health studies should be conducted on the types of FRs identified here.”
The American Chemistry Council responded with this statement:
This study confirms what we would expect to find: Furniture manufacturers use flame-retardants to meet established fire safety standards, which help save lives. There is no data in this study that indicate that the levels of flame-retardants found would cause any human health problems.
“Statistics show that home fires from open flame ignition sources are still a significant problem. Flame-retardants can be an effective way to meet fire safety standards, and are designed to prevent fires from starting, and if a fire does occur, slow its spread and provide valuable escape time. Indeed, one recent analysis, using data from a National Institute of Justice arson study, showed flame retardants in upholstered furniture can provide valuable escape time. It’s important to remember that flame retardants currently in use, like all chemicals, are subject to review by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and national regulators around the globe.”
So it would seem open and shut, no big deal. But not if you saw the headline of Duke University’s press release: “Potentially Toxic Flame Retardants Found in Many U.S. Couches.” Mainstream media and the blogosphere saw it and reacted quickly. Before daylight on the East Coast, a wildfire of fear was spreading across the Internet, with headlines like these feeding the flames:
Toxic flame retardants common in household couches -Los Angeles Times‎
Dangerous for kids’ pajamas, safe for sofas? -Chicago Tribune‎
New Flame Retardants, Other Replacement Chemicals, Pose Same … Problems As Predecessors. -Huffington Post
Research: Toxic chemicals in your living room -CNN (blog)
Toxic Chemicals in Furniture Linked to Cancer, Other Health Risks … …Unfair to Manufacturers, Retailers. –MarketWatch/The Wall Street Journal
Duke: Bad chemicals in home sofas -Triangle Business Journal (blog)
All the stories convey variations of one message: Be afraid, be very afraid, in this case of flame-retardants, about which the average citizen knows virtually nothing. But don’t look in the press release or these articles for facts that would inform readers or at least justify the headlines. The last line of the abstract indicates that no studies that would generate the facts have been done.
The release and the articles use words such as “may pose risks”, “probable”, “suspected”, and “has been linked to”, but never “this causes that.” Why bother? The writers already know their readers are afflicted with chemophobia or plastiphobia, so if the facts disagree with what they believe, they will ignore or deny them.
Path:

Monday, September 17th, 2012

New York City Limits Drink Sizes — Also Jobs

Jobs, jobs, and jobs: That’s all we hear, and it makes sense. We need a bunch more jobs than we have. Unless you’re in New York City, that is.

Manhattan Skyline

t city, displays some very small thinking.

On September 13, 2012, the New York City Board of Health put hundreds of American manufacturing jobs at risk when it approved a ban on the sale of large sodas and other drinks at restaurants, street carts, and movie theaters, the first regulation of its kind in the country. Championed by the city’s mayor, Michael R. Bloomberg, the restriction is aimed at America’s rising obesity rates, and is scheduled to take effect on March 12, 2013, unless it is blocked prior to that date.

Members of SPI: The Plastics Industry Trade Association include the many American companies, mostly small- and medium-sized enterprises, that make up the supply chain for plastic products made in the USA. That includes those making plastic bottles and cups of every size and type.

SPI opposes this proposed ban for good reasons, both economic and societal. We all are well aware of the obesity problem across America, but whether or not the Big Apple’s ban on large, sweet beverages is a solution is questionable. What’s clear is that the regulation itself is problematic.

SPI member companies in the New York City region that make plastic bottles and drinking cups are almost certain to be negatively impacted by this regulation, as are many other people in the region. According to statistics released by the New York State Department of Labor on August 16th, New York has regained all the private sector jobs it lost in the recession, while the country as a whole has regained only 44%. Maybe New York City is feeling bulletproof about jobs. It shouldn’t.

SPI’s latest “Size and Impact of the Plastics Industry on the U.S. Economy” report shows that in New York State during 2011 there were 18 facilities manufacturing plastic bottles. They employed more than 900 people total, but even that is not the full picture. In the tri-state region of New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey, generally known as the greater NYC metro area, there are 35 plastic bottle manufacturing facilities. They employ more than 2,500 people, many of them the main support of a family. Jobs will be at risk from this quirky ban.

The value of products shipped by those 35 bottle manufacturing plants was $826 million in 2011. Their total payroll for the year was $112 million, and it is well established that every manufacturing job supports a minimum of three other jobs, and often more.

SPI also opposes this level of intrusive government regulation in the lives of American citizens. This nit-picky social engineering goes contrary to American ideals—freedom for example. And seriously, aren’t there at least a couple dozen more urgent problems that governments should be working on?

And if this regulation is implemented, then what? At a minimum, we probably can expect the number of ounces to be further reduced later, after little or no reduction in obesity is seen. But will the city government then move on to dictate portion sizes served in restaurants, or how many of a

particular item you can buy at one time in a supermarket?

Shortly after the Board of Health’s vote, Mayor Bloomberg was quoted by the New York Times as saying, ‘It’s certainly not the last step that lots of cities are going to take, and we believe that it will help save lives.’ The first part of the mayor’s statement is what should concern us. How many more ‘steps’ might be taken to regulate individual Americans? Impossible to say, but SPI will continue to support those who oppose this intrusive and short-sighted regulation, especially those taking action to block it.Rich Text AreaToolbarBold (Ctrl / Alt+Shift + B)Italic (Ctrl / Alt+Shift + I)Strikethrough (Alt+Shift+D)Unordered list (Alt+Shift+U)Ordered list (Alt+Shift+O)Blockquote (Alt+Shift+Q)Align Left (Alt+Shift+L)Align Center (Alt+Shift+C)Align Right (Alt+Shift+R)Insert/edit link (Alt+Shift+A)Unlink (Alt+Shift+S)Insert More Tag (Alt+Shift+T)Toggle spellchecker (Alt+Shift+N)▼
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Jobs, jobs, and jobs: That’s all we hear, and it makes sense. We need a bunch more jobs than we have. Unless you’re in New York City, that is.

New York, America’s largest city, displays some very small thinking.On September 13, 2012, the New York City Board of Health put hundreds of American manufacturing jobs at risk when it approved a ban on the sale of large sodas and other drinks at restaurants, street carts, and movie theaters, the first regulation of its kind in the country. Championed by the city’s mayor, Michael R. Bloomberg, the restriction is aimed at America’s rising obesity rates, and is scheduled to take effect on March 12, 2013, unless it is blocked prior to that date.
Members of SPI: The Plastics Industry Trade Association include the many American companies, mostly small- and medium-sized enterprises, that make up the supply chain for plastic products made in the USA. That includes those making plastic bottles and cups of every size and type.
SPI opposes this proposed ban for good reasons, both economic and societal. We all are well aware of the obesity problem across America, but whether or not the Big Apple’s ban on large, sweet beverages is a solution is questionable. What’s clear is that the regulation itself is problematic.
SPI member companies in the New York City region that make plastic bottles and drinking cups are almost certain to be negatively impacted by this regulation, as are many other people in the region. According to statistics released by the New York State Department of Labor on August 16th, New York has regained all the private sector jobs it lost in the recession, while the country as a whole has regained only 44%. Maybe New York City is feeling bulletproof about jobs. It shouldn’t.
SPI’s latest “Size and Impact of the Plastics Industry on the U.S. Economy” report shows that in New York State during 2011 there were 18 facilities manufacturing plastic bottles. They employed more than 900 people total, but even that is not the full picture. In the tri-state region of New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey, generally known as the greater NYC metro area, there are 35 plastic bottle manufacturing facilities. They employ more than 2,500 people, many of them the main support of a family. Jobs will be at risk from this quirky ban.
The value of products shipped by those 35 bottle manufacturing plants was $826 million in 2011. Their total payroll for the year was $112 million, and it is well established that every manufacturing job supports a minimum of three other jobs, and often more.
SPI also opposes this level of intrusive government regulation in the lives of American citizens. This nit-picky social engineering goes contrary to American ideals—freedom for example. And seriously, aren’t there at least a couple dozen more urgent problems that governments should be working on?
And if this regulation is implemented, then what? At a minimum, we probably can expect the number of ounces to be further reduced later, after little or no reduction in obesity is seen. But will the city government then move on to dictate portion sizes served in restaurants, or how many of a particular item you can buy at one time in a supermarket?
Shortly after the Board of Health’s vote, Mayor Bloomberg was quoted by the New York Times as saying, ‘It’s certainly not the last step that lots of cities are going to take, and we believe that it will help save lives.’ The first part of the mayor’s statement is what should concern us. How many more ‘steps’ might be taken to regulate individual Americans? Impossible to say, but SPI will continue to support those who oppose this intrusive and short-sighted regulation, especially those taking action to block it.
Path:

Sunday, August 26th, 2012

Federal Regulations’ Impact On Manufacturing Severe and Growing

When plastics industry leaders met with Senators, Representatives, and Congressional staffers on July 25, 2012 during the SPI Congressional Fly-In, one of the key discussion topics was the continuing increase in federal regulations on U.S. manufacturing in general, and on the plastics sector in particular.

While most acknowledge that the burden created by  federal regulations is already heavy and continuing to grow, the details had not been well quantified until now. The Manufacturers Alliance for Productivity and Innovation (MAPI) commissioned NERA Economic Consulting to examine the qualitative and quantitative impacts of federal regulations on the U.S. manufacturing sector.

Not only are the negative impacts severe, and the number of regulations, both major and minor ones, has been rising steadily for some time, as is evident in this graph:

New Major & Non-Major Federal Regulations on Manufacturing, 1981-2012

Impact of Federal Regulations on U.S. Manufacturing, 1981-2012

The study reveals that U.S. manufacturers currently are subject to around 2,183 unique regulations created from 1981 to April 2012. There are 65 major (cost more than $100 million) and 755 non-major regulations directly related to  NAICS sector 32, which includes wood, paper, printing, petroleum, chemicals, and plastics businesses.

Since 1998, according the NERA report, the cumulative inflation-adjusted cost of compliance with major manufacturing-related regulations grew at an annualized rate of 7.6%. Over this same period, annual growth in the physical volume of manufacturing sector output averaged only 0.4%, while U.S. inflation-adjusted GDP growth averaged 2.2% a year.

From 1993 through 2011, 1,110 manufacturing new regulations were promulgated. The estimated cost of compliance for the manufacturing sector in that period was $1,353 billion, which was 1.4% of the $94,641 billion in manufacturing shipments during that period.

The MAPI/NERA study’s cost findings are based solely on major regulations because the federal government does not track costs of non-major regulations. However, since about 95% of all regulations are not major, NERA suggests that their aggregate cost burden could be as large as that of the major regulations.

The agencies generating the highest regulatory costs for manufacturers from 1993 to 2011 were:

  1. Environmental Protection Agency  — $117 billion
  2. Department of Transportation — $25 billion
  3. Department of Health & Human Services — $10 billion
  4. Department of Homeland Security — $7 billion
  5. Department of Energy — $5 billion
  6. Department of Labor — $3 billion

 Plastics Industry Is Hit Hard

While SPI President & CEO Bill Carteaux was attending a briefing on the MAPI/NERA Regulations Impact Report last week, he tweeted out two of the plastics-related stats that, for obvious reasons, jumped out at him. Federal regulations will reduce the output of the plastics sector by almost 6% over the next decade and cost the industry more than $10 billion in 2012 alone. And regarding America’s critical foreign trade balance, federal regulations will reduce plastics sector exports by almost 18% in 2012 alone.

Since federal regulations still are on the increase, their impacts are sure to continue past the end of this year. For a detailed picture, you can download

the full NERA study from the MAPI website. While we can’t call it enjoyable reading, we nonetheless recommend it highly, and sincerely thank MAPI and NERA for the excellent research and report.

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Wednesday, August 25th, 2010

Polystyrene Food Containers Help Keep You Out of the Hospital

President's Post

(The following column, sans links, recently appeared in the Janesville (Wis.) Gazette in response to an earlier opinion piece concerning polystyrene take-out food containers.)   

I am troubled by the rise in food-borne illnesses and disease that our society would witness if the irresponsible opinion expressed by Julie Backenkeller of the Rock Environmental Network concerning polystyrene food containers were ever taken seriously. When we take home food from our favorite restaurants we should be confident that it is packaged in a safe, sanitary container. We should not have to worry if it has been infected by E. coli, salmonella or parasites.

We can all agree about the need to prevent the spread of germs and bacterial disease. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, 76 million illnesses occur, more than 300,000 persons are hospitalized, and 5,000 die from food-borne illness in the United States each year. Public health organizations encourage the use of single-use food service products, including polystyrene, because they are sanitary and provide increased food safety – particularly in hospitals, schools, and restaurants where it is critical that the foodservice ware be hygienic. Reusable china and glassware depend on washing after use. But consistent and thorough washing is not always the case: A 2002 study in Las Vegas found that 18 percent of reusable items tested had higher than acceptable bacterial counts.

Reusable plates and cups also have significant impacts on the environment.  They require copious amounts of water and energy to clean, time and time again. Plastic foodservice packaging conserves these resources and allows restaurants, schools and hospitals to save the water, energy, detergents and labor—required to sanitize reusables. Compared to glass, paper and aluminum, plastic foodservice packaging uses fewer resources and creates fewer emissions to manufacture, weigh less and produce fewer air emissions during transport. Check out this study, as well as what these students concluded

What is filling up landfills?  According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the number one material is paper at 31%. How about plastic foodservice products? Only about 1%. What about litter? According to a 2007 study by Keep America Beautiful, “Take out food packaging [both paper and plastic]…on average comprised only 4.1 percentof the total visible items on state roadways.”

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulates the safety of food contact packaging and has approved the use of polystyrene since 1958.  Polystyrene also meets the stringent standards of the European Commission/European Food Safety Authority and the Hong Kong Food and Environmental Hygiene Department for use in packaging to store and serve food. 

As the leader of the plastics industry trade association, I stand by plastic foodservice products.  They help keep us safe from food-borne illnesses. Citizens in Janesville and across the country should be confident that polystyrene foodservice containers, when used properly, are a safe and smart choice.