EPA’s Proposal to Ban Use of Methylene Chloride in Paint Stripping

The Environmental Protection Agency has announced its intention to finalize a proposed ban on the use of methylene chloride in paint stripping.

Methylene chloride, which is also called Dichloromethane, is a volatile chemical that is produced and imported into the United States, with use estimated at over 260 million pounds per year.

The EPA’s final risk assessment evaluated health risks to consumers and workers using methylene chloride in paint and coating removal products, as well as bystanders in the workplace and in residences where methylene chloride paint and coating removers are used. Paint and coating removal poses some of the highest exposures among the various uses of methylene chloride.

EPA issued the proposed rule in January 2017. Methylene chloride is a widely-used solvent that can cause serious illness or death when used in enclosed spaces. It is a cancer-causing chemical that is used in paint strippers, and you can easily find these products on the shelves of your local hardware or paint stores.

The Agency has listed ‘‘Paint Stripping,’’ ‘‘Plastic Parts and Products (Surface Coating),’’ and ‘‘Autobody Refinishing Paint Shops’’ as area sources of hazardous air pollutants (HAP) that contribute to the risk to public health in urban areas under the Integrated Urban Air Toxics Strategy.

According to a 2015 report from the Center for Public Integrity, a Washington-based investigative journalism organization, unintentional exposure to methylene chloride has contributed to at least 56 deaths since 1980, with many involving paint stripping.

OSHA has alerted workers of the dangers of methylene chloride through its Fatal Facts series, advising employers to use safer alternatives such as water- and vegetable-based products, when available. OSHA issued a Methylene Chloride Standard in 1997.

The chemical is among the first 10 EPA is tasked with evaluating for potential health and environmental risks under the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act.