John Schweitzer began his career in the plastics industry at a manufacturing company with plants scattered in the northeast United States. After 10 years with the company, the last three as a plant manager, he joined the staff at Composites Institute, a precursor to the American Composites Manufacturers Association (ACMA). Schweitzer was originally hired at CI for an engineering and manufacturing assistance position. After Congress amended the Clean Air Act, directing the Environmental Protections Agency (EPA) to establish air pollution control requirements for the composites industry, Schweitzer became the director of Government Affairs.

What’s the first regulatory issue you tackled?

When congress amended the Clean Air Act in 1989, the EPA had to establish a MACT (Maximum Achievable Control Technology) standard for a variety of industries. From 1990 to 2003, I worked with the EPA to develop the MACT standard for composites manufacturing, which involved a lot of engineering and cost data analysis, and my first taste of lobbying Congress and the Administration. The final MACT was released by EPA in 2003, and industry had until 2006 to comply. Along the way, we helped composite manufacturers be in compliance and stay in business.

What other benefits came out of that effort?

ACMA’s predecessor CFA (Composites Fabricators Association) developed open molding emissions factors which supported the use of pollution prevention controls. These developments allowed EPA to set pollution prevention controls such as requiring different spray gun designs and usage of certain low-styrene resins. One of the biggest successes was in changing the EPA’s focus from oxidation control requirements to pollution prevention controls. By focusing on pollution prevention controls, manufacturers had an affordable way of reducing emissions and staying in compliance—it was a major win!

What is your current focus?

The biggest challenge in the composites industry is getting the federal government to look at the health effects of styrene scientifically. There are institutional problems that are leading the government to rely on bad policy and analyses. Europeons have already determined that styrene is not a carcinogen, but the U.S. agencies prefer short cuts and a default approach to the data, which doesn’t work. There are hundreds of styrene health-effects studies, and most fail to support a tie to cancer and styrene.

For example, studies of 65,000 workers exposed to styrene show they had no styrene-related excess occurrences of cancer over the normal population. But the government right now takes no interest in those studies; they’re only looking at ones that do show an effect, no matter how inconsistent and weak. For a huge database like styrene’s, it simply isn’t scientifically valid to look at only a small subset of studies.