A vinyl window trade group is setting up some new barriers to competitors in Asia that want to export product to the United States.
The American Architectural Manufacturers Association announced May 14 that it will screen imported vinyl window profiles to check for lead contamination.
Schaumburg, Ill.-based AAMA also said it will not certify any more offshore facilities ``until a program can be set in place that realistically protects consumers from exposure to barium, cadmium and lead additives.''
The action is the latest in the hot-button issue of certifying overseas producers in countries where lead additives are not restricted by law. AAMA began certifying China-based producers last year. U.S.-based manufacturers voiced their concerns over the potential use of lead additives, even though AAMA conducts unannounced plant inspections for overseas producers.
``Our goal here is to determine whether border screening provides the degree of comfort demanded by the American consumer on this important issue,'' AAMA Executive Vice President Rich Walker said in a May 14 news release.
According to that release, lead additives currently are barred from AAMA-certified vinyl extrusions and lead content is not considered to be a problem in North America. Walker said that some foreign countries dismiss the health risks of lead additives and permit its usage in vinyl extrusions and other imported consumer products.
According to the AAMA Web site, currently certified offshore profile houses include ATN Plastic Building Material Co. Ltd. of Zhejiang, China, and LG Chemical Ltd. of Seoul, South Korea.
Extrusion giant Dalian Shide Plastic Industry Co. Ltd., with plants located throughout China, also has applied for certification, but was not listed on AAMA's site.
While some U.S. profile extruders also are worried about market share, pricing and quality issues, the debate over certifying overseas companies currently focuses on safety issues.
In a Feb. 2 letter to the editor that ran in Plastics News, Walker said more discussion and investigation is necessary to qualify overseas producers.
``AAMA is concerned about the ability to conduct unannounced audits of Chinese plants, because visa procedures in communist countries require long lead times and the knowledge of itineraries becomes widespread,'' he wrote. ``The potential for lead contamination is a legitimate concern in Chinese PVC window profiles - and this concern must be eliminated to maintain the integrity of our program.''
Overseas window and door makers are not required to have products certified by AAMA to sell in the United States, but most local building codes require products that are certified. About 60 percent of residential windows and patio doors sold in the United States are AAMA-certified, according to the association.