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U.S. Department of Transportation Reconfirms Safe Transit Status of Polyurethane Foam

Contact: Marie Francis (202) 249-6514  
Email: marie_francis@americanchemistry.com

WASHINGTON, D.C. (April 8, 2011) – The Center for the Polyurethanes Industry (CPI) of the American Chemistry Council (ACC) today applauded the work of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and the agency’s decision to continue to classify polyurethane (PU) foam as a nonhazardous material for purposes of commercial transportation.

“Polyurethane foam is a versatile material that can be found in many valuable consumer and industrial products, such as insulation and automobiles. We commend DOT for their work on this review and their thoughtful consideration of the comments they received from CPI and 28 others who were united in their view about safe transport procedures. As consumer demand for PU foam continues to grow, manufacturers and businesses can be assured that they will not have an unnecessary impediment to transporting flexible, durable polyurethane foam,” said Lee Salamone, senior director of CPI.

DOT’s decision was in response to a petition filed by the National Association of State Fire Marshals (NASFM) which sought to classify PU foam and certain finished products containing PU foam as hazardous materials for purposes of transportation in commerce.

In the decision, which appeared in the April 6 Federal Register, DOT—through the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA)—announced it was denying the petition, saying, “A PU fire does not require special firefighting agents, procedures, or protective equipment and, therefore, does not pose an unreasonable danger to first responders…PU foam is not designated as a hazardous material because it is not considered a substance or material capable of posing an acute or unreasonable risk to health, safety and property when transported in commerce.”

PHMSA cited the input of ACC, in particular the impressive economic contributions of the PU industry. Data provided at that time indicated that the total production of polyurethane in the United States was approximately 6,692,500 pounds. ACC estimated that the polyurethanes industry directly creates 47,500 jobs paying $2 billion in wages to its employees and generates $19.7 billion in revenues.

“The costs associated with implementing the petition would far exceed the benefits,” PHMSA’s statement concluded.

“CPI and our members are committed to the responsible use and stewardship of polyurethanes. We are in complete agreement with DOT that the safe and proper commercial transportation of PU foam does not pose an unreasonable hazard to firefighters or first responders. Moreover, we believe that the appropriate use of polyurethanes offer combined social and economic benefits that are unquantifiable,” Salamone said.

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