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EPA Proposes Ban on Paint Removers

Monday, January 16, 2017

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Two chemicals found in consumer and commercial paint and coatings removal products are targeted in newly proposed rules by federal regulators.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is proposing bans or restrictions on the use of methylene chloride (dichloromethane) and n-methylpyrrolidone, the EPA announced Thursday (Jan. 12).

The dangers with regard to methylene chloride include death (due to asphyxiation), liver toxicity, kidney toxicity, reproductive toxicity, and certain cancers, the agency says.

painting project
© / JasonVosper

Painting and decorating as well as renovations and contracting are specific sectors put on notice under the proposed rules.

“Some of these health effects result from a very short, acute exposure; others follow years of occupational exposure,” EPA notes.

For NMP, the EPA says health effects include developmental toxicity (e.g.,fetal death or decreased infant birth weight), neurotoxicity, immunotoxicity, liver and kidney toxicity and reproductive toxicity.

Proposed Restrictions

The 277-page proposal regarding the chemicals calls for a prohibition on the manufacture (including import), processing, and distribution of these chemicals in commerce.

The agency also wants to restrict the sale of small-volume products and require companies to notify retailers and others in the supply chain regarding such prohibitions, the document notes.

For each of these chemicals, EPA says, it has identified risks of concern associated with their use in the following specified sectors:

  • Painting and decorating;
  • Floor refinishing;
  • Automotive refinishing;
  • Civilian aircraft refinishing;
  • Graffiti removal;
  • Renovations and contracting;
  • Bridge repair and repainting; and
  • Marine craft refinishing and repair.

One exemption is the chemicals usage in commercial furniture refinishing; the proposal doesn’t cover that application at this time, EPA says.

Two Approaches for NMP

Chemical Watch (subscription) outlined the two approaches presented in the proposal with regard to the solvent NMP.

“The first calls for a prohibition on the manufacture, processing and distribution of NMP in paint stripping, with downstream user notification requirements,” the report said.

“The second would instead put in place a set of restrictions to address the risks the substance poses, including: limiting the amount of NMP used in paint remover products; consumer warning labels; and workplace personal protective equipment (PPE) requirements.”

Public Comment Period

A 90-day comment period will be open from the date the proposals are published in the Federal Register.

Moreover, the EPA also published proposed rules Friday (Jan. 13) that aim to clarify how it will evaluate chemicals that may pose health and environmental risks under the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, which updates the Toxic Substances Control Act.

Editor's note: This story was one of our most popular of 2017, and appeared in our Readers' Choice issue on Dec. 28.


Tagged categories: Chemical stripping; Coatings Technology; Contractors; Paint Removal; Painters; Renovation; Surface preparation

Comment from Jody Favia, (1/16/2017, 8:20 AM)

Looking forward to Trump taking over and hopefully stripping this faux agency of most of their illegal power

Comment from Gregory Stoner, (1/16/2017, 12:16 PM)

Toxic brain syndrome is no joke. Without severe limitations on these products people will continue to get seriously injured. You might say put out better notifications but too many people don't read the hazards. As you have read this will not apply to commercial work. I am not sure what you think Trump will do about this. Allow big business to kill or seriously hurt people?

Comment from Jesse Melton, (1/17/2017, 8:32 AM)

It bothers me that people don't have any idea of what the US President actually does or is empowered to do. People would probably live longer if they didn't set themselves up for disappointment by expecting the President to cure cancer and/or give them a big stack of money.

Personally, I'm a huge fan of methyl chloride finish removal products. It works very well, is easy to clean up and compared to a lot of other products in the category is easy on the environment. But it's bad stuff. Really bad. The special headaches it gives you and the way it messes up your thinking are pretty big red flags. Deliberately concentrating and inhaling it kills people every year occupationally. Bathtub refinishers are the most common victims. It's heavier than air so when they pour it in the tub they have their heads in the fumes all day. Flow over furniture stripping is similar. Implementing controls over the stuff is a good thing.

The prepublication paper linked to is interesting reading. The ban will apply to all commercial use except furniture stripping. In those applications the minimum container size for new sales is 55 gallons, and I don't like that. At the current price of $24.35 (median) per gallon of Kutzit you're looking at a $1,400 post tax outlay, which is a lot more than the $130 for 5-gallon cans. If you use the stuff correctly a 5-gallon can is enough to strip 3-4 cars, a 15' powerboat, all the trim and doors in a pretty big house or most of the painted and stained furniture in a home. It has noticeably reduced effectiveness from the time you open the can and unless you're running a really large stripping operation the effective price per gallon is going to be a lot higher by the time the drum is empty.

But what really bothers me about the 55 gallon drums is the logistics costs and the storage and handling complications.

Not many suppliers with a storefront have the capability to deal with 55 gallon drums. Not just the moving them around, but the storage. Light-medium use commercial and light industrial operations in most places are prohibited from storing hazardous materials containers that size. The same applies to the places where many commercial stripping operations are located. Even if the commercial end user can store the stuff the container transfer problems are very real. PTFE tubing and hand pumps are the cheapest routes but that's still messy and electric pumps have to be explosion proof and have PTFE seals so they aren't cheap. Based on the way less volatile liquids are routinely handled and the regularly occurring disastrous results I don't think proper safety precautions will happen.

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