The Environmental Protection Agency has sent to the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) a draft final rule that significantly scales back the ban it proposed two years ago on deadly paint strippers containing methylene chloride. The retreat signals a major concession to industry and allied interests. While the exact content of the rule EPA sent to OMB is not yet known, EPA appears to have limited the ban to consumer uses only. Yet workers constitute the great majority of reported deaths from the use of these products.
Methylene chloride is highly neurotoxic, and acutely lethal. There have been over 50 reported deaths from acute exposure to the chemical in paint strippers – though many more likely have gone unreported.
“For the families around the country who have lost loved ones to methylene chloride exposure, this is at best a half-step forward in getting these deadly paint strippers off the market. Rather than waiting for EPA to act, most major retailers have already removed or pledged to remove these products from their shelves. But that doesn’t protect most workers, and now it looks like EPA won’t either.” said Lindsay McCormick, Project Manager at Environmental Defense Fund.
“Instead, EPA will relegate any limits on commercial uses to a separate, nebulous and lengthy process it is only just starting, which will defer for years or even deny protection to those most at-risk: workers,” McCormick added. “EDF previously identified the key elements needed to make EPA’s final action health-protective, and we cautioned EPA to avoid taking actions short of the ban originally proposed two years ago. It appears that once again EPA has prioritized narrow commercial interests over strong science and health protection.”
The record EPA assembled two years ago to support the need for a ban on most commercial as well as consumer uses is clear: Allowing such products to stay on the market based on reliance on increased labeling, protective equipment, or training requirements simply will not protect the public’s or workers’ health.
By sending to OMB only an “advanced notice of proposed rulemaking” to address commercial uses – which will likely merely invite input on what a training and certification program should look like – EPA is deferring for years needed action to protect workers.
For more details on methylene chloride: https://www.edf.org/health/dcm-methylene-chloride
EPA’s methylene chloride half-measure leaves a number of unanswered questions. See them here.
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