FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
EDF applauds EPA’s proposal to ban most uses of the toxic chemical methylene chloride – has concerns about potential risks from exceptions to the ban
(Washington, DC – April 20, 2023) Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a proposed rule to address the toxic chemical methylene chloride under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).
Methylene chloride, also known as dichloromethane, is an industrial solvent that is commonly used in paint and coating removers, as well as in many everyday products like automotive cleaners, adhesives, and degreasers. The chemical can cause severe health effects. Short-term exposures can result in harm to the central nervous system – and even death. Longer-term exposure can lead to liver toxicity, liver cancer, and lung cancer.
The proposal would ban all consumer uses of methylene chloride and most commercial uses under TSCA’s jurisdiction. The rule includes a ban on commercial methylene chloride paint strippers – a use that has caused dozens of worker deaths.
“My son Kevin died in 2017 from methylene chloride exposure from refinishing a bathtub at work. I have fought for six years to get this chemical out of the workplace. I’m happy to see that EPA is finally proposing to ban methylene chloride as a commercial bathtub stripper once and for all. I urge the agency to act quickly to finalize this rule and make sure no other mother has to experience what I did,” said Wendy Hartley, Kevin Hartley’s mother.
“It is welcome news that the Biden EPA will finally be banning many uses of this toxic chemical,” said Maria Doa, Senior Director of Chemicals Policy at Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). “For far too long, people have suffered from its devastating health effects.”
However, there are several areas where the rule falls short. Under the proposal, an estimated 52% by volume of TSCA uses of methylene chloride would be eliminated, but there are multiple exceptions to the bans that will allow continued use of methylene chloride, albeit with restrictions.
“While we are encouraged to see the proposal, we are concerned that frontline communities near facilities that manufacture, process, and continue to use the chemical for these carve-outs won't be appropriately protected,” said Doa. “Further, exemptions for federal uses of paint and coating removers – such as those for NASA, the Federal Aviation Administration, and the Department of Defense – could continue to put those communities at risk.”
In the coming weeks, we will take a closer look at the proposed rule and offer suggestions to strengthen the final version to better protect public health, including for workers and frontline communities.
Methylene chloride paint strippers
In 2019, EPA finalized a limited ban on methylene chloride in paint strippers for consumer uses. The agency took that step thanks to the courageous efforts by families that have lost loved ones who were exposed to these products, leadership shown by major retailers who pulled products from their shelves, and pressure from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle and advocacy organizations.
But the 2019 rule was severely limited after the Trump Administration scaled it back and allowed continued use of these deadly products in workplaces – despite knowing that the majority of methylene-chloride paint stripping deaths occur occupationally.
With today’s proposal, EPA would at long last ban workplace use of methylene chloride-based paint strippers.
Read more about the history:
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