EPA Finalizes Stronger Restrictions on Highly Toxic Chemical


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized a ban on most uses of methylene chloride, a chemical known to cause cancer as well as neurotoxicity, liver harm, and death. EPA’s action, also known as a risk management rule under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), will end many uses of methylene chloride while allowing key uses to continue safely under a new worker protection program.

Activists have been pushing for such regulations for decades, CNN reports, and it is one of several dangerous chemicals, including toxic “forever chemicals” the Biden-Harris Administration has banned or restricted this year.

Methylene chloride is used by consumers for aerosol degreasing, paint stripping, and coating removal. In commercial applications the chemical is used in products such as adhesives and sealants. In industrial settings, methylene chloride is utilized for making other chemicals, such as refrigerant chemicals.

“The United Steelworkers applauds EPA’s final rule banning certain uses of methylene chloride and lowering allowable workplace exposure levels,” said David McCall, United Steelworkers international president. “More than 100,000 workers die from occupational disease each year, including those sickened by harmful chemical exposures. Our union fought for the updated TSCA so that we could ensure that worker exposures to harmful substances like methylene chloride are appropriately assessed and regulated at harmful levels. Now, thanks to the current administration, workers are safer and better protected.”

Since 1980, at least 88 people have died from acute exposure to methylene chloride, largely workers engaged in bathtub refinishing or other paint stripping, even, in some cases, while fully trained and equipped with personal protective equipment. While EPA banned one consumer use of methylene chloride in 2019, use of the chemical has remained widespread.

“My son, Kevin, died in 2017 from methylene chloride exposure from refinishing a bathtub at work,” said Wendy Hartley, mother of Kevin Hartley, who died from methylene chloride poisoning. “I am pleased that the EPA is finally taking action and banning methylene chloride as a commercial bathtub stripper. This is a huge step that will protect vulnerable workers.”

EPA’s final risk management rule rapidly requires companies to phase down manufacturing, processing, and distribution of methylene chloride for all consumer uses and most industrial and commercial uses, including its use in home renovations. Consumer use will be phased out within a year, and most industrial and commercial uses will be prohibited within two years.

Uses that will continue under the Workplace Chemical Protection Program are highly industrialized and include:

  • Use in the production of other chemicals, including refrigerant chemicals that are important in efforts to phase down climate-damaging hydrofluorocarbons under the bipartisan American Innovation and Manufacturing Act.
  • Production of battery separators for electric vehicles.
  • Use as a processing aid in a closed system.
  • Use as a laboratory chemical.
  • Use in plastic and rubber manufacturing, including polycarbonate production.
  • Use in solvent welding.

Cleanfax Staff

Cleanfax provides cleaning and restoration professionals with information designed to help them manage and grow their businesses.

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