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EPA to ban most uses of methylene chloride

Photo: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Washington — The Environmental Protection Agency will ban most industrial and commercial uses of the carcinogenic chemical methylene chloride, under a final rule announced April 30.

A solvent widely used for bathtub refinishing, as well as in paint strippers, cleaners, adhesives and sealants, methylene chloride has contributed to the deaths of 88 workers since 1980, EPA says. Most of the cases stemmed from exposure during home renovation contracting. In some instances, the workers were fully equipped with personal protective equipment.

Methylene chloride exposure has been linked to cancer, harm to the central nervous system and toxicity to the liver.

EPA will ban consumer use of methylene chloride within one year and phase out most industrial and commercial uses within two years.

The agency proposed the ban in May 2023. A final revised risk determination published in November 2022 concluded that methylene chloride, as a whole chemical substance, posed “unreasonable risk” to workers under 52 of the 53 conditions of use studied, including:

  • 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 will continue to allow various uses of methylene chloride that are “highly industrialized” and vital to national security and the economy “for which EPA received data and other information that show workplace safety measures to fully address the unreasonable risk could be achieved.” 

These uses include plastic and rubber manufacturing, laboratory chemical uses, and production of certain refrigerants and electric vehicle parts.

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

EPA will host a public webinar on the final rule at a date and time yet to be determined.

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