February 14, 2017

AAFA Panelists Predict These 4 Trump-Era Chemical Compliance Trends

By Lisa Stapleton

Just a few weeks after President Trump’s inauguration, it’s clear that the Trump regime has a fundamentally different attitude toward chemical regulations from prior administrations. But don’t expect toxics regulations to go away anytime soon. That’s the message conveyed by the AAFA recently in a day of expert panels at a product safety summit in Long Beach, CA—titled “What’s on Your Customers’ Shelf? The Latest on Compliance and Restricted Chemicals.”

Panelists told a group of more than 100 attendees that while it’s too early to say definitively how federal toxics regulations will shake out in 2017—given the Trump administration’s preference for unusual appointments and wide-ranging executive orders—it’s already clear that most companies should do some basic things now, for an easier time later. 

The AAFA—and almost everyone else—had thought that the regulatory map was settled last summer with the passage of the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, which replaced the previous decades-old TSCA regulations that virtually everyone agreed had gotten a little long in the tooth. Stakeholders generally acknowledged it to be a landmark compromise that balanced many interests, providing nearly everyone at the table enough of their desired objectives to agree to its passage.

Now, the Trump administration has made it clear that environmental regulations—chemical and otherwise—are subject to change or elimination.

Still, the panel of experts agreed that it’s possible to draw at least four broad generalizations that help to illuminate the unfamiliar new regulatory terrain:

  • Some states—notably Washington, Oregon and California—still have stricter standards than the federal government, and their state laws will continue to set relatively high bars for regulation, even if federal regulations are relaxed or eliminated in a regulation-unfriendly Trump administration, Andrew R. Hackman, firm member at Serlin Haley LLP, told the audience. These states are likely to strongly defend their regulations despite federal efforts to loosen them. Other states—such as New York, Vermont and Maine also have additional regulations that could prevail even if national regulation and enforcement loosen.
  • Clothing innovations such as nanotechnology and wearable sensors are introducing uncertainty and possibly new requirements into the industry. For example, consider the medical privacy regulations that could come into play when sensors are sewn into garments—and the additional compliance requirements that their makers must meet. And nanoparticles are a new, vaguely defined type of molecule—read ‘chemical’—that may fall within a number of regulatory rules, even in the Trump administration.
  • It is more important than ever to know what chemicals you use, and report as required to state and federal authorities. Danielle Iverson, director of government relations for the American Apparel & Footwear Association, says that as chemical regulations are modified, it’s important that clothing manufacturers and retailers inventory and report to the EPA which chemicals they’re using and for what purposes. It’s also important to comment on proposed regulations and how they’ll affect your company, so you can influence the final regulations.
  • Collaboration is vital to agility in dealing with any change in regulation. Iverson urged manufacturers to coordinate and communicate closely with upstream suppliers to ensure that those suppliers report to regulators any substances that are important to the manufacture of their products. Frequently, manufacturers are unaware of all of the component chemicals that are used by their suppliers. Retailers usually have even less visibility to the manufacturing process—unless they’ve automated collaboration and communication regarding compliance issues—and yet retailers often share liability for some aspects of chemical compliance. In other words, supplier transparency is more critical than ever in an era of change and uncertainty.

At this time, it’s impossible to say definitively what will happen to federal chemical regulations. The AAFA will continue its efforts on behalf of its membership, and plans to update attendees on changing regulations at the upcoming AAFA Executive Summit—“Rebels, Influencers and Transformers"—from February 28 through March 3. 

To learn more about how you can get the visibility you need into your trading partners’ compliance, visit ICIX at the AAFA Executive Summit, or catch ICIC founder Matt Smith’s panel on another force transforming apparel and footwear—“The Pros and Cons of Fast Fashion.” You’ll see how many apparel and consumer goods companies are managing their chemical compliance with Active TransparencyTM from ICIX

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About the Author:

Lisa Stapleton

Lisa K. Stapleton is a writer and editorial director living in Silicon Valley. She served as a writer and editor for InfoWorld, Terrain, and InformationWEEK. She wrote this for ICIX.

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