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A 1990 regulatory action list: an overview of regulatory initiatives in 1990 reveals increased activity in the Bush administration; the nonwovens industry must deal with FDA, OSHA, DOD, and EPA activity.

A 1990 Regulatory Action List To best represent its members' interests in Washington, DC, INDA, Association of the Nonwoven Fabrics Industry, works with legislative and regulatory bodies to help assure that laws and regulations are adopted that promote the nonwovens industry while fostering public interest and safety.

In last month's column, key pieces of legislation on INDA's 1990 legislative action list were outlined. This month a similar overview of the regulatory initiatives on INDA's 1990 Regulatory Agency action list will be detailed.

Regulation Vs. Legislation

Some readers may not have a clear understanding of the differences between legislation and regulations. Since the distinction is crucial, a brief explanation is in order.

In short, legislation is produced by Congress and can only be overturned, in certain specified cases, by the supreme Court. Regulations, on the other hand, are promulgated by the Federal regulatory agencies in accordance with directions outlined by laws set forth by Congress.

In fact, the regulatory agencies were established by Congress to oversee the day to day operations of the federal government. Agencies have specific jurisdictional areas and, within those areas, Congress allows them to pass regulations that have the force of Federal law.

There are approximately 82 government departments and agencies in the Federal government, most of which have the ability to promulgate regulations. Some of the agencies that would be more familiar to the nonwovens industry include the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Labor Dept's. Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), the Commerce Dept's. International Trade Association and the International Trade Commission.

Since Congress established these agencies, it is free to overturn their regulations if it sees fit. Congress can also pass legislation requiring agencies to adopt certain regulations if it so chooses. Furthermore, regulations may be mandated or voided by the Federal courts or, in many cases, stopped by the White House before they have a chance to be finalized.

The Federal courts have a say in the regulatory process through their ability to overturn regulations, and to compel regulatory action in certain-cases; this ability was demonstrated in late 1989, when the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia required the FDA to adopt final regulations regarding tampon absorbency standards (see December 1989 Nonwovens Industry).

The White House also has a say in the regulatory process, since the heads of most agencies are appointed by the President and they are expected to implement the "President's Program" throughout the government. For this reason it is rare for a regulation to be implemented that is not supported by the White House.

Deregulation/Reregulation

For the eight years that Ronald Reagan was president, many of the federal regulatory agencies tended to take a laissez-faire attitude toward the industries they were charged with regulating. After all, President Reagan captured the White House, in part, through his pledge to "get government off the back" of industry.

This attitude has changed somewhat now that President Bush has taken office. In the past year, sweeping regulations have been offered for consideration that never would have sen the ligth of day during the Reagan years.

Where deregulation was the buzzword of the 1980's, many Washington insiders believe that "reregulation" will be politically in vogue during the 1990's.

A number of regulations currently under consideration could impact the nonwovens industry. In fact, for the past six months or so, as far as the nonwovens industry is concerned, a lot of the real action in Washington has been taking place in the regulatory agencies, not in Congress.

Surgical Device Classification

The FDA has under consideration a proposed rule that would exempt 11 specified surgical devices from premarket notification procedures. Included in the list of exempted devices is something the FDA describes as "nonabsorbable gauze surgical sponge for external use."

INDA is concerned that this description does not accurately reflect products currently on the market and believes that the FDA might have mistakenly combined several types of devices (surgical sponges, gauze and would dressings) designed for external use into one single category. INDA is also concerned tht FDA's proposed rule does not reflect the facts that nonwoven surgical sponges, gauze and would dressings for external use are prevalent in the health care industry and that these devices are manufactured from synthetic as well as natural materials.

Since INDA members produce these products, INDA is generally supportive of any efforts that would exempt these products from premarket notification procedures. For this reason INDA has formally recommended that the FDA clarify the proposed rule to better describe these devices and to acknowledge that they are commonly manufactured from nonwoven materials.

INDA has been joined in this effort by several of its member companies and expects that a final rule on the issue will incorporate the INDA recommendations.

Bloodborne Pathogens

As discussed in the November, 1989 issue of Nonwovens Industry, INDA has been actively involved in the consideration of a regulation proposed by OSHA that would require, among other things, that protective clothing and equipment be provided to workers who are at risk of exposure to blood or other potentially infectious body fluids.

INDA generally supports the adoption of this proposal, but has a number of concerns over its wording. To best represent the nonwovens industry, INDA established a task force of member companies affected by the proposal and it has worked with the task force to develop an industry position on the issue.

Accompanied by several of its task force members, an INDA representative presented the association's position paper to OSHA on Dec. 22 in the form of testimony during a public hearing held in Miami, FL. For the most part, OSHA has been receptive to INDA's recommendations and is currently reviewing them in the context of the overall proposed rule.

While final action by OSHA is not due on the proposal until late 1990 or early 1991, INDA will continue working with OSHA staff to help assure tha our recommendations are included in the final version of the regulation.

Harmonized Tariff Schedule

As of Jan. 1, 1990, due to INDA's efforts, additional tariff classifications for nonwoven fabrics have been identified in the Harmonzied Tariff Schedule and characterized by specific technological manufacturing processes. These processes include thermal bonded, hydroentangled, spunbond/melt blown, air laid/chemically bonded and stitchbonded.

Information from these new breakouts will be compared to the domestic nonwovens roll goods production data being gathered for the INDA data base project. By comparing data from both sources, INDA hopes to be able to identify the impact of imports on domestic markets.

In 1990, INDA will work with members of the International Trade Commission to explore the feasibility of establishing separate breakouts for spunbonded, melt blown, wet and dry laid chemically bonded and wet and dry laid hydroentangled technologies before the next tariff schedule is printed.

DOD's Metric Conversion

The Department of Defense (DOD) is considering a proposal to require that its textile procurements be based on the metric system of measurement. At DOD's request, INDA has sent a questionnaire to its member companies to gauge the impact of such a proposal on the nonwovens industry.

Based on responses that INDA has received so far, it does not appear that such a conversion would represent a major hardship on the industry. In fact, a number of INDA members noted that they export to many countries that exclusively use the metric system of measurement, or import raw materials based on metric measurements. It would represent little difficulty for them, therefore, to implement the metric system in any dealing they had with DOD.

EPA Dioxin Report

INDA is also involved in an area of government action which, at this point, does not involve the promulgation of regulatons. This area has to do with a report on dioxin content in consumer goods expeccted from the EPA this spring.

The report grows out of a judicial case in which the EPA was involved and will attempt to quantify dioxin levels found in consumer goods sold in the U.S. and gauge their potential impact on U.S. consumers. Included in this report will be products such as disposable diapers, coffee filters and tea bags.

According to meetings INDA has held with government officials involved in the development of this report, no preliminary findings are to be released. While they will detail how the report is being prepared, these officials will not indicate if traceable levels of dioxin are being found in these products.

No matter what the outcome of this report, it is likely to be controversial and will probably receive attention from the media and from Capitol Hill when it is released. For this reason, INDA has placed the report on its 1990 action list and will take appropriate action when the report is released.

Peter Mayberry is director of government affairs for INDA, Association of the nonwoven Fabrics Industry. He works out of the Washington, DC offices of Keller & Heckman, INDA's legal counsel. This Capital Comments column will be appearing regularly in Nonwovens Industry.
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Title Annotation:Capital Comments
Author:Mayberry, Peter
Publication:Nonwovens Industry
Article Type:column
Date:Feb 1, 1990
Words:1502
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