If you have an ACS member number, please enter it here so we can link this account to your membership. (optional)

ACS values your privacy. By submitting your information, you are gaining access to C&EN and subscribing to our weekly newsletter. We use the information you provide to make your reading experience better, and we will never sell your data to third party members.


Chemical Regulation

US EPA finds new risks for 3 solvents: methylene chloride, N-methylpyrrolidone (NMP), and perchloroethylene

Draft revised evaluations assume no use of personal protective equipment

by Britt E. Erickson
July 6, 2022

Chemical structures of methylene chloride, n-methylpyrrolidone (NMP), and perchloroethylene

Three common solvents—methylene chloride, N-methylpyrrolidone (NMP), and perchloroethylene—pose unreasonable risks to human health under multiple use scenarios, the US Environmental Protection Agency concludes in separate draft risk evaluations released within days of each other.

The assessments replace previous ones finalized under the Donald J. Trump administration. They incorporate changes announced a year ago to the way the EPA evaluates the risks of high-priority chemicals in the US marketplace. The EPA says it made the changes to ensure its risk assessments are science-based and legally defensible.

The three solvents are among the first 10 chemicals the EPA is evaluating under the 2016 revisions to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). The agency is updating assessments for all 10 chemicals to reflect the policy changes.

The changes include no longer assuming workers wear personal protective equipment. For each of the three solvents, eliminating that assumption resulted in a slight increase in the number of uses with unreasonable risks. The EPA found five additional uses with unreasonable risks for methylene chloride, three for NMP, and one for perchloroethylene. The agency will address those and dozens of other uses that have unreasonable risks as it considers risk management options for the three solvents over the next few years.

The EPA is also screening six of the first 10 chemicals, including methylene chloride, NMP, and perchloroethylene, for potential risks from air and water. The agency ignored those exposures in previous assessments. That screening analysis is ongoing and not incorporated in the draft risk assessments for the three solvents. If the EPA finds additional risks associated with air or water, the agency says it will address them during the risk management process.

The EPA is behind schedule and will likely miss all of its deadlines for issuing final rules on the first 10 chemicals. The deadlines fall between now and early 2023. So far, the agency has proposed a rule for only one of them—asbestos. The EPA is seeking an additional $64 million and 200 full-time employees in its fiscal 2023 budget request for TSCA-related work.

“Without more money and staff, we won’t get more than a handful of those rules on the books before 2025,” Michal Freedhoff, assistant administrator of the EPA’s office of chemical safety and pollution prevention, noted during a June 29 meeting to commemorate the 6th anniversary of TSCA reform. “With our current resources, we’re facing some unavoidable delays in getting our work done. And these delays have real consequences for real people,” she said. “The longer it takes for us to review chemicals and issue risk management rules, the longer workers, families, and communities have to wait for us to put protections in place. And the longer it takes for industry to get the regulatory certainty it needs.”



This article has been sent to the following recipient:

Chemistry matters. Join us to get the news you need.