The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency plans to finalize an Obama-era proposal to ban the use of methylene chloride in consumer and commercial paint strippers. The move, announced on May 10, follows a visit with EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt by families of men whose deaths were linked to methylene chloride in paint-removing products purchased at home improvement stores. EPA proposed the ban in the final days of the Obama administration, but by December 2017, the agency had relegated the rule to its list of “long-term actions,” giving no indication about when the rule would be finalized. EPA now says that it intends to finalize the rule “shortly.”
Exposure to methylene chloride, also known as dichloromethane, has been associated with a higher risk of cancer and neurological and liver problems in workers, according to a 2014 assessment conducted by EPA. It also found that consumers who use methylene chloride paint strippers face short-term risks of neurological effects.
Environmental and consumer advocacy groups are encouraged by EPA’s decision to finalize the proposed ban on methylene chloride in paint-removing products. “It is vitally important that EPA move quickly to implement a ban,” says Sarah Vogel, vice president for health at the Environmental Defense Fund. EPA should follow procedures to guarantee a permanent ban and ensure that “these products are promptly removed from store shelves,” she adds.
The Halogenated Solvents Industry Alliance (HSIA), which represents solvent manufacturers, is urging EPA to reevaluate the risks of methylene chloride in paint strippers. EPA, however, plans to rely on its 2014 assessment to finalize the rule. HSIA argues that currently available alternatives to methylene chloride in paint strippers pose a safety hazard because of their flammability. The group also argues that some alternatives are less effective and just as toxic as methylene chloride.