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Chemical Regulation

EPA moves to regulate methylene chloride

Solvent poses unreasonable risks to human health, agency concludes

by Britt E. Erickson
November 17, 2022 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 100, Issue 41

The US Environmental Protection Agency is one step closer to regulating methylene chloride. The common solvent poses unreasonable risks to human health, the agency says in an assessment finalized Nov. 10.

Chemical structure of methylene chloride.

The EPA identified risks for cancer, liver disease, and neurotoxicity. The agency found similar risks in June 2020, but it revisited that assessment to reflect policy changes made in July 2021. Those changes include not assuming workers wear personal protective equipment and determining the risks of the chemical overall rather than for each particular use.

Methylene chloride is found in consumer products like adhesives, sealants, degreasers, and cleaners. It is also used to make refrigerants. The chemical is one of the first 10 that the EPA is evaluating under amendments to the Toxic Substances Control Act enacted in 2016.

The EPA is expected to propose a rule for minimizing the risks of methylene chloride within the next year. The rule could include banning or restricting certain uses and requiring warnings on products that contain methylene chloride.

The chemical industry opposes the EPA’s policy changes implemented in July 2021, and law firms predict that the industry will challenge the forthcoming rule on methylene chloride risk mitigation. That rule could have implications for the rest of the chemicals in the first group of 10. The EPA is using the same approach for those substances. The agency is expected to finalize those assessments in the coming months.



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