US consumers will not be able to purchase paint and coating removers that contain methylene chloride by the end of the year, under a rule finalized by the US Environmental Protection Agency on March 15. Environmental and health advocacy groups welcome the ban but say it does not go far enough because it fails to protect workers who use such products.
The EPA proposed to ban methylene chloride in paint strippers for both consumer and commercial uses during the final days of the Obama administration. Now, the Trump EPA has limited the final rule to just consumer uses, citing unreasonable risks to human health due to consumer fatalities.
The EPA plans to gather public input on developing a training, certification, and limited-access program for workers who use methylene chloride–based paint and coating removers. Such a program could take years to get up and running.
Environmental groups are alarmed that the EPA abandoned its earlier proposal to ban methylene chloride in commercial products. That rule would have protected “those most at risk—the many workers, including owners and employees of small businesses, who are exposed to these deadly products on the job,” Lindsay McCormick, chemicals and health project manager at Environmental Defense Fund, said in a statement. “Most reported deaths from these products are of workers, and so we will continue to fight for their protection.”
Democrats in the US Congress are also calling on the EPA to extend the ban to include commercial uses. At a March 13 subcommittee hearing of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, lawmakers cited methylene chloride as a prime example of EPA’s failure to protect workers from hazardous chemicals. In response to the EPA’s final rule, Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE), the top Democrat on the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, urged the agency to “change course now and extend this ban to commercial usage.”
Retailers have 180 days after the rule goes into effect to remove methylene chloride–based paint strippers from their store shelves and e-commerce sites. Many US retailers have already voluntarily stopped selling these products.