RadTech 2022 Panel Focuses on ‘Turning Regulatory Challenges into Customer Victories’

By David Savastano, Editor | 05.10.22

While the regulatory environment becomes more difficult to navigate, there are success stories.

The regulatory world is becoming more challenging, and companies and trade associations alike are trying to steer their way through the regulatory maze. One of the RadTech 2022’s panel discussions focused on these challenges, as well as hard-won success stories.

The panel, “Turning Regulatory Challenges into Customer Victories,” was led by Michael Gould of RAHN USA Corp. Gould was joined by RadTech’s Rita Loof, Danimer Scientific’s Shannon Gainey, and George Fuchs of the National Association of Printing Ink Manufacturers (NAPIM). Each member of the panel brought interesting insights to the audience.

When asked what they see as the biggest challenge facing the energy curing industry, each of the panelists pointed to the more difficult regulatory environment. Loof noted that it’s hard to convince regulators to not treat all industries the same. 

“The number one challenge is the regulatory inertia, because agencies tend to do things a certain way, and put everybody in the chemical industry in the ‘baby killers’ category,” said Loof.

Gainey spoke about Europe as well as the stricter approach in the US.

“I feel like the regulatory inertia is centered around European regulations, and the new European Green Deal will be driving what happens everywhere,” Gainey observed. “Meanwhile, simultaneously working with US EPA and TSCA, it’s been a challenge to get new chemistries through, even though they are greener.”

Fuchs noted that there is a “zero-risk” mentality that is taking over on the regulatory level.

“There is a refusal to accept any risk whatsoever,” Fuchs added. “The State of Washington is looking to regulate inadvertent use on PCBs, and they want single-digit parts per quadrillion. We also have this enormous bureaucracy that has solved all of the big problems from the 1970s and 1980s, and it is almost like they are looking for new problems to solve.”

“Clearly the inertia is going against us,” Gould noted. “We want to make safer, better, more sustainable products, and the regulatory inertia is going on the opposite direction. There are onerous implications. It is a tall order to get new materials registered.”

Gainey noted that it is essential for companies to be aware of what is going on globally.

“Even if your company is not a global company, your customer might be,” added Gainey. “You have to know what is going on. I was around when REACH was beginning, and we didn’t think that would happen, and it did. They define chemicals differently – it changed the dynamic of chemicals. Asia-Pacific is quickly adopting new policies – China has a robust system, Korea adopted REACH, India wants an Indian REACH.”

“In California, we have 35 different air districts, and they have autonomy to do their own sets of regulations. The key is forming partnerships with other people in similar situations, and RadTech does that,” Loof added.

With this said, there have been some success stories. Fuchs and Gainey pointed to the US FDA as being reasonable to work with.

“We do an awful lot on ink on food packaging, and FDA is the most reasonable and technically oriented group,” said Fuchs.

“It was only the FDA who was very quick to ease restrictions on hand sanitizers during the pandemic,” added Gainey.

Gainey also noted that there has been some success working with the EPA on respirators.

“When we got the Lautenberg law, all of these PPE regulations came unto play, such as respirators,” Gainey noted. “The EPA requires respirators for chemistries that never used them before. It became a carve out, but at least we can work with the EPA to determine if there is a mist or vapor and no engineering controls, and not a broad ruling that you have to wear a respirator for everything.”

Loof pointed to work RadTech did on behalf of Water Gremlins. A leader in lead battery terminals, Water Gremlins had used solvents and had environmental issues. When it switched to solvent-free UV curable coatings, there was pushback from its Minnesota community. Loof held meetings with the community to show that UV was the ideal solution.

“On a positive side, we did win for Water Gremlins, a company in Minnesota,” Loof said. We had to show that we are part of an industry that is not harmful. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency were not recognizing that this company was trying to take steps to rectify its problem, so we put on a forum to put on a presentation for the community. Ultimately it worked out.”