US curbs on harmful chemicals may hit India's carpet exports

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is finalising a rule allowing it to restrict imports of potentially harmful perfluorinated chemicals that could be used in carpets.

The regulation, which requires companies to report to EPA all new uses, including in domestic and imported products, of these chemicals once used for soil and stain resistance in carpets, could affect export of carpets from India.

EPA said, these chemicals have been shown to persist in the environment and bioaccumulate in humans and animals and could cause potential threat to American's health.

The action follows the US chemical industry's voluntary phase out of these chemicals and a range of actions by EPA to address concerns with these chemicals.

''While this category of chemicals has largely been voluntarily phased out by the US chemical industry and not in use in this country, they could still be imported in carpets. Today's action will ensure that EPA has the opportunity to take action to restrict or limit the intended use, if warranted, for any new domestic uses or imports,'' said Jim Jones, EPA's assistant administrator for the office of chemical safety and pollution prevention. 

''This action will also provide a level playing field for those companies who stepped up to cease the use of these chemicals in this country, while at the same time protecting the American public from exposure to these chemicals in imported carpet products.'' 

The final rule issued today, known as a Significant New Use Rule under the Toxic Substances Control Act, requires that anyone who intends to manufacture (including import) or process any long-chain perfluoroalkyl carboxylic (LCPFAC) chemicals for use in carpets or carpet products submit a notification to EPA at least 90 days before beginning the activity, providing the agency with an opportunity to review and, if necessary, place limits on manufacturers or processors who intend to reintroduce or import products with these chemicals.

The action is one of several EPA has taken to protect the public from perfluorinated chemicals since, the eight major US companies producing LCPFAC chemicals, in 2006, committed to the EPA's voluntary PFOA Stewardship Program, pledging to reduce global emissions and product content of LCPFAC chemicals by the end of 2015.

As part of this phaseout programme, the industry stopped using LCPFAC chemicals on carpets and aftercare treatment products. 

The measure announced on Monday could hit India's carpet exports, which recorded a 2 per cent year-on-year growth at $85.65 million in August 2013.

Although India has diversified its carpet exports to include emerging markets like China, Latin America and Africa, the US and the European markets together traditionally account for more than 60 per cent of the country's overall carpet exports.

The demand for Indian carpets has also been reviving in the US market.

According to data provided by the Carpet Export Promotion Council (CEPC), India's carpet exports stood at $83.39 million.