RUSS BATSON: Executive Director Polyurethane Foam Association (PFA)

Russ Batson is the Executive Director of the Polyurethane Foam Association (PFA). Russell Batson is a an executive and counsel with three decades of experience representing business interests. His approach to public policy advocacy emphasizes early engagement with non-governmental standards organizations whose work can shape government action; impacting legislative activity and administrative rulemakings with credible science and economics; interaction with journalists and other opinion leaders; and prepping controversies for litigation. Experience before a diverse range of decisionmakers, including federal and state legislatures, regulatory agencies, ASTM, ACGIH and the model code authorities.

Flexible polyurethane foam (FPF) is a polymer produced from the reaction of polyols and isocyanates, a chemical process pioneered in 1937. FPF is characterized by a cellular structure that allows for some degree of compression and resilience that provides a cushioning effect. Because of this property, it is a preferred material in furniture, bedding, automotive seating, athletic equipment, medical uses, packaging, footwear, and carpet cushion. It also plays a valuable role in soundproofing and filtration. In all, over 1.5 billion pounds of foam are produced and used every year in the U.S. alone.

Foam is most commonly produced in large buns called slabstock, which are allowed to cure into a stable solid material and then cut and shaped into smaller pieces in a variety of sizes and configurations. The slabstock production process is often compared to bread rising—liquid chemicals are poured onto a conveyor belt, and they immediately begin foaming and rise into a large bun (typically about four feet high) as they travel down the conveyor.

Raw materials for foam can also be poured into aluminum molds, where the cured foam assumes the size and shape of the mold. Molding allows the production of foam items in shapes that are  difficult to achieve fabricating foam from a slabstock bun. The molding process can consolidate foam components with other parts such as a metal frame. One example of this is the headrest of a car seat. Because of the high upfront costs of producing molds, molding is typically reserved for high production runs. Molded foam is frequently found in auto interiors, business furniture and sports equipment.