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EPA seeks comment on revised draft risk evaluation for methylene chloride

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Washington — The Environmental Protection Agency is requesting public comment on a draft revised final risk evaluation that states methylene chloride, as a whole chemical substance, poses “unreasonable risk” to workers under certain conditions.

According to a notice published in the July 5 Federal Register, methylene chloride – frequently used for bathtub refinishing – is among the first 10 chemicals under evaluation for potential health and environmental risks under the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act.

In a June 2020 final risk evaluation, EPA found that methylene chloride poses unreasonable risk to workers involved in various 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

The revision is consistent with EPA’s June 2021 announcement to change certain aspects of the process under the Lautenberg Act with the objective of ensuring “the public is protected from unreasonable risks from chemicals in a way that is supported by science and the law.”

A corresponding action to that end includes using a “whole substance” approach when determining unreasonable risk – rather than basing determinations on separate conditions of use – as well as revisiting the assumption that personal protective equipment is always provided and worn properly by workers when making risk determinations.

 

Under this approach, EPA determined five additional uses for which unreasonable risk now is expected:

  • Domestic manufacture
  • Processing as a reactant
  • Recycling
  • Industrial and commercial use as a laboratory chemical
  • Disposal

EPA also is screening methylene chloride for potential risks from air and water pathways, according to an agency press release. EPA intends to determine “if there are risks that were unaccounted for in the risk evaluation” for the chemical.

In 2014, the agency found that exposure to methylene chloride may cause cancer, harm to the central nervous system and toxicity to the liver, among other adverse health effects.

Comments on the draft revised final risk evaluation are due Aug. 4.

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