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Toyota Says ‘Time to Get Serious’ About Chemicals in Products

Dec. 3, 2021, 9:02 PM

Industries making planes, refrigerators, computers, and other goods need to know what specific chemicals are in their products so they can understand how evolving chemical regulations could affect them, auto and electronics industry officials said Friday at a Pentagon conference.

A lot of industries think it’s too burdensome to know which chemicals are in thousands of parts used to make their products, Mark Bacchus, a senior manager at Toyota Motor North America, Inc., told participants during a session that discussed U.S. and European chemical regulations.

But “you have to do it. There’s no way around it,” he said. “It’s time for us to get serious globally about knowing what’s in our products.”

The global auto industry has spent $10 billion since the late 1990s to develop an International Material Data Management System to identify chemicals throughout the supply chain, Bacchus said.

Such information helps industry officials quickly figure out whether car manufacturers widely use a particular chemical that a country or region may regulate, he said.

Being able to trace chemical uses throughout the supply chain is “paramount,” said Kelly Scanlon, director of environmental policy and research for IPC, a global electronics trade association.

Despite making progress, she said, the electronics industry needs to do more.

Compliance Struggles

Automobile manufacturers are struggling to figure out how they’d comply with a proposed rule under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) that could require them to report per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, used in cars, Bacchus said.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s proposal, which could cost $1 million per automotive company, doesn’t even include a specific list of the PFAS it could cover, he said.

He ticked off numerous other Canadian, European, and U.S. federal and state regulations manufacturers of cars and other goods manufacturers may be affected by.

Industries can’t afford to be caught off guard as many were when the EPA banned many uses of a flame retardant and plastic softener called phenol, isopropylated phosphate, or PIP 3:1, Bacchus said. The agency later extended the compliance timeline for manufactured goods.

PFAS, Lead Rules

Bacchus, Scanlon, and other speakers described how TSCA, Canada’s chemical regulations, and a host of European chemical and waste regulations affects a range of industries, especially those serving the military market.

Most European regulations offer the defense industry exemptions, said Alexandra Lesage, a European Defense Agency officer working on REACH, the EU’s Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals regulation. Yet those exemptions don’t guarantee that a chemical military equipment needs will be available, she said.

Lead-based solder, for example, remains important in “high performance, high reliability” applications such as electronics needed for defense equipment, Scanlon said. Yet at least six existing EU regulations and regulatory revisions underway may limit the metal’s use, she said.

At least five U.S. and European regulations and policies could affect the electronic industries use of PFAS, Scanlon said. Those developments could affect whether and how companies can use fluoropolymers, a type of PFAS, in circuit boards, wires, and cables, she said.

More information about how these chemicals are used in defense applications, the quantities in which they’re used, and what happens to them when equipment is recycled or disposed of, could be useful in discussions with regulators, Scanlon said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Pat Rizzuto in Washington at prizzuto@bloombergindustry.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Rebecca Baker at rbaker@bloombergindustry.com

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