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Chemical Regulation

EPA bans most uses of methylene chloride

The rule will phase out all consumer and most industrial uses of the solvent within 2 years

by Krystal Vasquez
April 30, 2024

A worker stripping the paint off of machinery in a shipyard.
Credit: Shutterstock
The US Environmental Protection Agency has banned most uses of methylene chloride, a compound that's widely used as a paint stripper.

The US Environmental Protection Agency has banned most uses of methylene chloride, a solvent that has been linked to a number of adverse health effects and some deaths.

Since 1980, at least 88 people have died from acute exposure to methylene chloride, the agency says. Longer-term exposure can also lead to liver damage and the development of at least six different types of cancers, it adds.

Methylene chloride is the second compound, after asbestos, to be banned under the revised Toxic Substances Control Act. The ban, which follows a risk assessment and an April 2023 proposal, will phase out all consumer uses within a year and most industrial and commercial uses within the next 2 years.

Uses of methylene chloride that are exempt from the ban include as a raw material for producing electric-vehicle batteries and climate-friendly refrigerant chemicals. And methylene chloride can continue to be used as a laboratory chemical.

“For each use of the chemical that will continue, EPA has developed a first-of-its-kind worker protection program, so that the workers who are helping make and use the chemical . . . are protected, as they deserve to be,” Michal Freedhoff, assistant administrator for the EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, said during a press briefing. Workplaces that are exempt from the ban will have 18 months to put worker protections in place.

Both environmental organizations and unions representing plant workers applaud the new ban. During the press briefing, Sarah Vogel, senior vice president for healthy communities at the Environmental Defense Fund, said the methylene chloride ban is a “really important step to protect workers.” In the same briefing, David McCall, international president of the United Steelworkers, said the union “looks forward to working with the EPA on the implementation of this rule.”

Other groups said the ban doesn’t go far enough. “As glad as we are to see today’s rule banning all consumer and most commercial uses, we are concerned that limits to its scope will allow continued exposure for too many workers to methylene chloride’s dangerous and deadly effects,” Liz Hitchcock, director of Toxic-Free Future, said in a statement.



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