MPA Other Developments
Department of Transportation and Congress Set New Rail Transportation Rules Applicable to Methyl Methacrylate
With a final rulemaking by the Department of Transportation (DOT) in May 2015, which was modified by a subsequent Act of Congress in December 2015, the Department and Congress set new safety rules for rail transportation of flammable liquids. Although primarily targeting crude oil and ethanol shipments, the rule applies to shipment of all Class 3 flammable liquids and thus to methyl methacrylate (MMA). MPA had commented on the Department’s proposed rules, expressing concern about the need for such rules given the methacrylate industry’s voluntary adoption of higher-safety tank cars, as well as the foreshortened and likely unrealistic timeline proposed for implementing required retrofits (or obtaining new tank cars built to the new DOT-117 specifications). DOT’s final rule was not adequately responsive to such concerns. Congress stepped in with provisions in the” Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act” (FAST Act) which modified the DOT rule. For Packing Group II substances such as MMA, improved tank cars must be used for transport after May 1, 2029, consistent with MPA’s comments requesting an extended period for implementation of the new rules. DOT can extend this deadline by two years if it determines there is insufficient shop capacity to meet the 2029 deadline. Further, in lieu of meeting the full DOT-117 standards, retrofitted tanks cars may comply with DOT-117R standards, which many tanks cars in MMA service already meet. The voluntary adoption of tank car enhancements by MMA members has contributed to an outstanding safety record for rail transportation of MMA.
ACGIH® Recommended TLVs for Methyl Methacrylate
In response to recent announcements by American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH), MPA comments to ACGIH supporting the recommended Threshold Limit Values (TLVs) for Methyl Methacrylate (MMA). These limits are consistent with occupational exposure limits set by the European Union SCOEL (Scientific Committee on Occupational Exposure Limits). However, two statements concerning potential respiratory and skin sensitization have been included that are not supported by a wider evaluation of the literature, and could lead to misunderstanding by ACGIH’s intended audiences.
Health Review on Asthma
The health effects of MMA are well understood. MMA liquid is recognized as being irritating to the eyes and is a weak skin-sensitizer that may cause skin allergy (allergic contact dermatitis) following skin contact. High concentrations of the vapor are also irritating to the respiratory system. As irritant vapors (cold air, smoke etc.) may worsen the symptoms in individuals that have sensitive airways, such as asthmatics it is not surprising that there has been much debate and confusion about whether or not MMA exposure can also cause respiratory sensitization (occupational asthma). Dr. Jonathan Borak, MD, DABT (Departments of Epidemiology and Public Health and Medicine, Yale University) conducted a critical review all the available information and the results are included in a publication in Critical Reviews in Toxicology in which he concludes that the "weight of evidence" supports the conclusion that "MMA is not a respiratory sensitizer". For for information, see Methacrylates and Asthma.
REACH is the European Union (EU) regulation for Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals. It entered into force on 1st June 2007 with the objective to protect human health and the environment from the risks that can be posed by chemicals.
The Methacrylates REACH Task Force, comprised of MPA’s member companies along with other manufacturers in the EU and Japan, successfully completed the registration of the lower methacrylates (MAA, MMA, EMA, nBMA, iBMA and 2-EHMA) as a group of related esters (or category) in October 2010, before the December 1st deadline for high production volume chemicals (>1000 tpa). The registrations included the conduct of several studies to meet data requirements for compounds in the highest tonnage band, a comprehensive hazard assessment for each compound, as well as an assessment of safe handling conditions for identified uses of each compound.
Assessment of the Skin Sensitizing Potency of the Lower Alkyl Methacrylate Esters
A 2014 publication in Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology, "Assessment of the skin sensitising potency of the lower alkyl methacrylate esters" reports that Methyl Methacrylate and other lower alkyl methacrylates had weak skin sensitizing potency.
Methacrylate Polymers Do Not Cause Skin Sensitization When Handled
A 2014 publication in Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology, "Risk Assessment of residual monomer migrating from acrylic polymers and causing allergic contact dermatitis during normal handling and use" reports that methacrylate polymers do not cause skin sensitization when handled.
For more information, see MPA Archived Developments.