Environmental regulators may soon put new restrictions oin the use of some types of paint strippers, due to their potentially serious risk to human health.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a press release on May 10, announcing that it intends to soon finalize a rulemaking on the use of methylene chloride, based on previous analysis of the side effects.
Those previous risk assessments indicate that methyl chloride is dangerous and has been blamed for dozens of deaths. In 2015, the Center for Public Integrity conducted a study which determined methylene chloride exposure was responsible for at least 56 deaths since 1980.
In January 2017, the EPA proposed a methyl chloride ban on consumer use after its own assessment in 2014. However, the agency delayed finalization of the rule, until now.
While the agency has not indicated whether the finalized rule will involve a methylene chloride ban as originally proposed, advocates of the ban say they are hopeful since the decision came just days after EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt met with the family members of two men who died last year due to methylene chloride side effects.
“We are encouraged that today EPA has decided to reverse course and move forward to finalize its proposed rule banning methylene chloride in these products,” Dr. Sarah Vogel, the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) vice president for health, said in a May 10 press release. “We are also encouraged that EPA is not re-evaluating the paint stripping uses of methylene chloride and is relying on its previous risk assessments, which found very high risks to consumers and workers from these products.”
However, Vogel notes that the EPA’s statement falls short of committing to an actual ban, saying the EDF will “delay any celebration” until paint strippers containing the chemical are removed from the market.
Methylene chloride was one of 10 specific chemicals the EPA decided to evaluate as part of changes made to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) in The Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, passed into law in June 2016.
As part of the new rules, the EPA will be required to systemically prioritize existing chemical substances that have entered the market within the past 10 years.
When a chemical is deemed to pose an unreasonable risk the EPA must take action within two years, with the possibility of an extension to four years. Bans and phaseouts have to occur within five years of an assessment that a chemical is unreasonably dangerous.