The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed regulations to help protect consumers from new uses and imports of Toluene Diisocyanates (TDI) and related compounds.

According to the EPA, these harmful chemicals are currently widely used in residual amounts in the production of polyurethanes and consumer products, such as coatings, elastomers, adhesives and sealants, and can be found in products used in and around homes or schools. Diisocyanates are recognized as dermal and inhalation sensitizers in the workplace and can cause asthma, lung damage and, in severe cases, death.

A Significant New Use Rule (SNUR) proposed by the EPA last week would allow the agency to evaluate the use of products containing these chemicals, including products imported into the United States.

Manufacturers and importers would be required to notify the EPA at least 90 days before starting or resuming new uses of TDIs in consumer products at levels above 0.1 percent by weight. The agency would then have the opportunity to evaluate the intended use of the chemicals and, if necessary, take action to prohibit or limit the activity.

Explaining why the SNUR is necessary, the EPA said that while TDI exposure in occupational settings is already subject to protective controls, there is concern over potential health effects that may result from exposure to the consumer or self-employed worker while using products containing uncured TDI and its related polyisocyanates (e.g., spray-applied sealants and coatings) or incidental exposures to the general population while such products are used in or around buildings including homes or schools.