Federal agencies Workplace exposures Chemical Manufacturing

EPA requests input on draft risk evaluation for methylene chloride

removing paint from tub

Photo: California Department of Public Health

Washington — The Environmental Protection Agency is seeking comment on a draft risk evaluation that states the chemical substance methylene chloride poses “unreasonable risk” to workers under certain conditions, according to a notice published in the Oct. 29 Federal Register.

Among the first 10 chemicals slated for evaluation for potential health and environmental risks under the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, methylene chloride is frequently used for bathtub refinishing. In 2014, EPA found that exposure to the chemical may cause cancer, harm to the central nervous system and toxicity to the liver, among other adverse health effects.

According to the draft, methylene chloride poses “unreasonable risk” to workers involved in numerous operations, including:

  • Plastic and rubber manufacturing
  • Electrical equipment, appliance and component manufacturing
  • Oil and gas drilling, extraction and support activities
  • Adhesive/caulk removal
  • Cold pipe insulation
  • Aerosol and non-aerosol degreasing and cleaning

As required under the Toxic Substances Control Act, which the Lautenberg Act amended, the draft risk evaluation is scheduled to undergo an in-person peer review Dec. 3-4 during a meeting of the Science Advisory Committee on Chemicals. EPA is set to host a preparatory virtual meeting Nov. 12 “to consider the scope and clarity of the draft charge questions for the peer review.”

Written comments for the virtual meeting are due Nov. 8, while requests to speak during the SACC peer review are due Dec. 3. Comments on the draft risk evaluation are due Dec. 30, but stakeholders who want their comments to be read by SACC members must submit them by Nov. 26.

In March, EPA published in the Federal Register a final rule prohibiting manufacture (including import), processing and distribution of methylene chloride in paint removers for consumer use and requiring manufacturers, processors and distributors to notify retailers and others in the supply chain about the ban.

Weeks later, a coalition of groups representing worker rights filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit a lawsuit against EPA and Administrator Andrew Wheeler for not including worker protections in the agency’s final rule, as previously outlined in a proposed rule issued in January 2017. According to the final rule, “a determination of unreasonable risk from the use of methylene chloride in commercial paint and coating removal” was not finalized.


EPA previously solicited comments on problem formation documents for the first 10 chemicals before releasing its first draft risk evaluation – for Pigment Violet 29 – in November 2018. Subsequent draft risk evaluations followed on July 1 (for Cyclic Aliphatic Bromide Cluster and 1,4-dioxane) and Aug. 12 (for 1-Bromopropane).

A November 2018 press release from EPA states that the agency had planned to release draft risk evaluations for the remaining chemicals “in the coming months” and intends to issue final risk evaluations for the first 10 chemicals by December.

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