Today, EPA released a proposed rule regulating toluene diisocyanates (TDI), a group of chemicals mainly used to make polyurethanes like the flexible foam in furniture, as well as other consumer products, including coatings and adhesives. According to the agency, diisocyanates are “well known dermal and inhalation sensitizers in the workplace and can cause asthma, lung damage, and in severe cases, death.” Today’s proposal is a Significant New Use Rule (SNUR) under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), and applies to the domestic manufacture, processing, or import of TDI in consumer products.
The proposed SNUR [PDF] designates as a “significant new use” the use of certain types of TDI in any consumer products; for three other types of TDI, the “significant new use” designation contains a carve-out for use in coatings, adhesives, elastomers, binders, and sealants at no greater than 0.1% by weight. Under the SNUR, manufacturers, processors, and importers would be required to notify EPA at least 90 days before beginning or resuming the manufacture, processing, or import of TDI in a consumer product. The 90-day period would allow the EPA to evaluate the potential uses for any associated risks or hazards.
Following a recent trend, EPA has proposed making inapplicable the general SNUR exemption for importing or processing the SNUR chemical as part of an article. In the proposal, EPA explains that the articles exemption “is based on an assumption that people and the environment will generally not be exposed to chemical substances in articles…. However, TDI and related compounds are volatile and as such could migrate out of articles that contain them.” The agency cites studies finding that TDI have migrated from products, leading to potential exposure.
EPA notes that TDI, also a high production volume chemical (HPV), are “widely used in residual amounts.” According to the proposed rule, TDI use in consumer products was not reflected in Chemical Data Reporting (CDR) data, and agency staff only learned of its use, at residual concentrations no more than 0.1% by weight, in coatings, adhesives, and similar products, from direct conversations with manufacturers and a review of published literature and Safety Data Sheets for products in stores. Moreover, due to expected growth in the market for such products, “EPA is concerned that consumer products in the future might contain amounts of TDI above [current] levels.”
The chemicals covered by the proposed SNUR are:
- Toluene diisocyanate trimer
- Poly(toluene diisocyanate)
- Toluene diisocyanate dimer
- Toluene diisocyanate “cyclic” trimer
- 2,4-toluene diisocyanate
- 2,6-toluene diisocyanate
- Toluene diisocyanate unspecified isomer
EPA requests comment on the proposed SNUR, and is particularly interested in “whether there are any ongoing uses of these consumer products of which the Agency is currently unaware and would welcome specific documentation of any such ongoing uses.” The proposal released today is a prepublication version [PDF], and is expected to appear in the Federal Register in the next week or two; comments will be accepted within 60 days after the proposal’s Federal Register publication. Additional material may be found and comments may be filed on Regulations.gov using the proposed rule’s docket number: EPA-HQ-OPPT-2011-0976.