Last month, ACA joined the Canadian Paint and Coatings Association (CPCA) in comments submitted to the U.S.-Canada Regulatory Cooperation Council (RCC), urging intercession to resolve issues related to regulation of biocides used in paint formulations.
The RCC was launched in 2011 and brings together regulators from United States and Canadian departments with health, safety, and environmental protection mandates to reduce unnecessary differences between their regulatory frameworks. ACA supports RCC efforts to streamline regulations between the two countries.
An overview of the ACA-CPCA jointly submitted comments are summarized here.
Biocides include a wide range of materials that control the growth of unwanted, deleterious micro-organisms in the environment. However, in May 2019, the Health Canada Pest Management Regulatory Agency’s (PMRA) ban on the use of octhilinone (OIT) as a material preservative in paint became effective, causing divergence with how biocides are currently regulated in the United States by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
The PMRA’s decision to disallow the use of OIT in the formulation of architectural paints in Canada, also includes those shipped to Canada, when added for a preservative effect on a paint product. PMRA also restricted the use of several other biocidal preservatives used in paint, including the widely used CMIT/MIT. However, industry has repeatedly understored that such biocides are integral to the cost-effective performance of paint products while posing little to no risk when handled as directed: if water- based paints cannot be preserved, they are of little use to consumers and commercial operators who require them to extend the life-cycle of their assets.
While many antimicrobials are routinely reviewed on both sides of the border by the USEPA and PMRA, there are still persistent differences between the two agencies with respect to their publication schedule and timing, risk assessment methodologies, re-evaluation decisions and use registrations. As a result, this leads to unavoidable trade disruptions due to non-alignment and production issues with manufactured products and treated articles in several industries such as paint and coatings, based on an inaccurate understanding of actual risk.
U.S. EPA recently published draft risk assessments for a class of antimicrobials called isothiazolinones (ITAs). CPCA is concerned that the prospect of pending decisions by EPA that would further limit critical uses of biocides, namely ITAs used in product formulations in the coatings sector. This has once again raised the need to remind both Canadian and U.S. authorities noted herein to take action to prevent Canada-only or US-only restrictions for antimicrobials in paint and coatings products. This would help companies on both sides of the border, although more so on the Canadian side given that 50 per cent of all coatings products sold in Canada are imported from the United States. Inconsistencies are a non-tariff barrier to trade and not in the spirit or intent of the recently signed United States- Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).
Deleterious Impact on Industry
The Canadian paint and coatings industry is already dealing with a severe lack of availability and numerous chemical incompatibility issues with the current, limited number of registered biocides for paint for ‘in-can’ and dry-film preservation, which is even more severe than in the United States. To have both types of preservation for water-based (latex) paint, the product must contain a biocide that works. Ongoing restrictions are severely limiting the availability of biocides for products in Canada, especially with respect to decorative latex paint which represents 50 percent of all paint products sold. Latex must utilize biocides to maintain product performance, which in turn helps sustain the life-cycle of many substrates in many industrial sectors. Further, latex paint has low volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions. ACA and CPCA have stressed that any additional bans or restrictions on those biocides in paint and coatings will be catastrophic for the coatings industry in Canada.
Canadian paint manufacturers are required to reformulate their products due to actions taken by the PMRA, which leaves the industry with an insufficient number of registered biocides or possible alternatives for the foreseeable future. (Including the cost and time for R&D to find suitable replacements)
The remaining PMRA-registered biocides for paint and coatings are either not chemically compatible, and/or alter other properties or performance of the mixtures, in some cases this renders them useless in prevention and the control of biofouling, and/or are not cost-effective and competitive. This can also lead to health issues via biocontamination for those handling the products. This is undermining national paint manufacturing activities in Canada as it forces Canadian small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to discontinue key product lines and/or abandon critical supplies coming from the United States.
Currently, U.S. paint manufacturers still benefit from a much wider selection of antimicrobials than Canadian paint manufacturers, while as noted above, more than 50 percent of the volume of paint sold in Canada is imported from the United States, this creating an economic burden in terms of stock management and difficulties for both US and Canadian paint manufacturers to adequately preserve all paint products sold in Canada. Further compounding this problem, U.S. EPA is also re-evaluating commonly used biocides like ITAs and may propose its own restrictions, which would either not be aligned with Canada or, if aligned, would leave the Canadian and U.S. paint industries with even fewer alternatives for high-volume paint products.
Recommendations for RCC
For this reason, CPCA and ACA recommended that the RCC establish a national funding program with international coordination that would extend research and development efforts for new, safe alternatives for in-can and film preservatives. This could be beneficial and work in both countries while agencies further evaluate any risks associated with consumer or contractor exposure. In the absence of viable alternatives (or the possibility to use efficient technical combination of registered biocides) and no suitable technical solution for adequate paint formulations, the paint industry will experience severe economic consequences in both countries, and more significantly so in Canada.
ACA and CPCA urged the RCC to encourage efforts and programs that will ensure a viable circular economy and enhanced sustainability. Without in-can biocide preservatives, leftover water-based paint recycling would not be possible due to product breakdown and microbial contamination.
CPCA and ACA have sought better and faster alignment in biocide approvals. As part of the RCC Workplan C and the PMRA Post-Market Program Review, the paint industry remains hopeful that it will soon see concrete evidence of more coordinated efforts and more sensitivity with respect to the tremendous impact of misalignment and an inaccurate understanding of the minimal risk posed by biocides when used in paints and coatings. . Without intercession, EPA and PMRA decisions will lead to banning, cancelling, labelling or restricting use rates or certain uses in the registration of pure or combined formulations of active ingredients on both sides of the border.