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EPA to propose ban on methylene chloride

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Washington — The Environmental Protection Agency wants to ban most industrial and commercial uses of methylene chloride.

Exposure to methylene chloride, which is frequently used in bathtub refinishing, contributed to the deaths of at least 85 workers from 1980 to 2018, EPA says. A majority were involved in home renovation contracting, with some of the workers fully equipped with personal protective equipment.

In a final revised risk determination published in November, EPA found that methylene chloride poses “unreasonable” risk of injury to human health under 52 of the 53 conditions of use studied, 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

EPA announced April 20 that it intends to issue a proposed rule in the Federal Register. The agency will accept comments until 60 days after publication. Much of the phasing-down of methylene chloride would be implemented within 15 months of the rule’s finalization.

A 2019 EPA final rule banned consumer use of methylene chloride but was met with legal challenges when it didn’t include provisions related to commercial paint and coating removal.

The agency previously has linked exposure to methylene chloride to adverse health effects such as cancer, harm to the central nervous system and toxicity to the liver.

“The science on methylene chloride is clear, exposure can lead to severe health impacts and even death, a reality for far too many families who have lost loved ones due to acute poisoning,” EPA Administrator Michael Regan said. “That’s why EPA is taking action, proposing to ban most uses of this chemical and reduce exposures in all other scenarios by implementing more stringent workplace controls to protect worker health.”

In a press release, Jonathan Kalmuss-Katz, an attorney for environmental watchdog group Earthjustice, says methylene chloride “has claimed too many lives and caused too much harm to remain on the market. EPA is right to phase out many of that chemical’s most dangerous uses. This rule will save lives and is a tribute to the workers, families, and other advocates who have fought for years to protect people from this deadly chemical.”

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