“True to form, the National Association for Surface Finishing’s Washington Forum in April brought forth the latest developments in government issues affecting the surface finishing industry and pointed out the new challenges awaiting it. As noted by NASF Executive Vice President Christian Richter, there was a change in emphasis from 2017, with fluorinated surfactants emerging as the industry’s most critical issue.

Fluorinated surfactants, more formally known as polyfluoroalkylated substances (PFAS), are synthetic organofluoride compounds that are very efficient at lowering the surface tension of water. They are widely used in treating carpets and other fabrics, and as grease-proofing agents in food packaging. In the surface finishing industry, the primary fluorinated surfactant of interest is perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS). Motivated by the need to protect workers on chromium plating lines, platers use PFOS to reduce surface tension in chromium baths and form a protective foam blanket to drastically reduce the fumes and mist generated by hydrogen at the cathode. In the mid-20th century, it was presumed that these substances helped, rather than hurt humans. Decades later, health and environmental concerns indicate that these materials are not as benign as had been thought.

The Washington Forum featured a number of talks addressing this issue. Peter Gravatt, director of groundwater and drinking water for U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), discussed the national summit on PFAS taking place in Washington in May, the culmination of EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s initial efforts to clean up PFAS contamination. Gravatt explained that, while these substances are of concern, the impact of contaminants and the viability of substitutes remain under investigation…

James Votaw, a partner at Keller and Heckman, discussed the emerging PFAS regulation protocol, including coordinated efforts by a regulatory science policy coalition to develop a science-based policy. He said that many federal agencies, including the EPA, Food and Drug Administration, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, and Superfund agencies are all doing separate studies. Votaw stressed the need to partner with these agencies; involve the entire PFC value chain, including manufacturers, processors and users; and offer science-based research to the policymakers.

The keynote address by Douglas Holtz-Eakin, former director of the Congressional Budget Office and chief economist on the President’s Council of Economic Advisors, gave a clear picture of the economic outlook. In 2016, real income growth was essentially zero, but policy changes made to date have improved the outlook. These include changes in the tax code and tax rate, and offshore monies being repatriated back to the U.S. The cost of regulation had been dramatically impacted, literally shutting it down. Outlook for growth in 2018 was 3.3 percent versus 2.0 percent last year.”

Read the full article by James Lindsay