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EPA to be Sued Over Paint-Stripper Ban

Monday, November 5, 2018

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Early last week, a group of workers and environment and public health advocates notified the Environmental Protection Agency of its intent to sue the agency over its failure to finalize a ban on the use of methylene chloride in paint strippers.

The group, which is also joined by the mothers of two men who recently died from methylene chloride exposure, says that the EPA has violated its public commitments and legal obligations to finalize the ban.

Aleksandr Volunkov

Early last week, a group of workers and environment and public health advocates notified the Environmental Protection Agency of its intent to sue the agency over its failure to finalize a ban on the use of methylene chloride in paint strippers.

“One life is one too many to have been lost to this deadly chemical,” said Wendy Hartley, whose 21-year-old son died from methylene chloride exposure in April of last year, in an emailed press release.

“We have lost loved ones due to the chemical industry's and the EPA's inaction to ban methylene chloride. Retailers have stepped up to save lives. How many more people will the EPA allow to die before they ban methylene chloride?”

What Happened

The group’s action refers to the Toxic Substances Control Act, which requires the EPA to regulate chemicals that present an unreasonable risk to human health or the environment. In January 2017, the Obama administration determined that methylene chloride places consumers, workers and bystanders at an unreasonable risk of injury and proposed to ban its use in paint strippers.

In May 2018, the EPA promised to finalize that ban, but it has taken no action since then. At the time, the EPA said that, as part of its requirement in the switch from the Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the TSCA, it was nearing completion of the Problem Formulations portion of a review of 10 specific chemicals, and has made a decision on methylene chloride.

The update said that the EPA:

  • intended to finalize the methylene chloride rulemaking;
  • is not re-evaluating the paint stripping uses of methylene chloride and is relying on its previous risk assessments; and
  • is working to send the finalized rulemaking to the White House Office of Management and Budget shortly.

The previous risk assessment that the announcement referred to was the January 2017 determination, when the agency proposed prohibiting the consumer and commercial paint-stripping uses for the chemical.

USMC / Cpl. Rubin J. Tan

In May 2018, the EPA promised to finalize that ban, but it has taken no action since then. At the time, the EPA said that, as part of its requirement in the switch from the Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the TSCA, it was nearing completion of the Problem Formulations portion of a review of 10 specific chemicals, and has made a decision on methylene chloride.

At that time, the EPA said that dangers with regard to methylene chloride include death (due to asphyxiation), liver toxicity, kidney toxicity, reproductive toxicity and certain cancers.

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

The 2017 277-page proposal called for a prohibition on the manufacture (including import), processing, and distribution of these chemicals in commerce.

The proposal also talked about restricting the sale of small-volume products and requiring companies to notify retailers and others in the supply chain regarding such prohibitions.

“EPA’s inaction on this admittedly deadly chemical is unsafe and unlawful.  The law does not allow [the] EPA to drag its feet while lives hang in the balance,” said Earthjustice attorney Jonathan Kalmuss-Katz, counsel for the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, a party in the forthcoming lawsuit.

In the absence of action from the EPA, several paint manufacturers and box stores have discontinued the manufacturing or sale of products that contain methylene chloride.

   

Tagged categories: Chemical stripping; EPA; Lawsuits; Methylene chloride

Comment from Dallas Cochran, (11/5/2018, 9:44 AM)

Millions and Millions of gallons of Methylene Chloride has been used safely. One dead is to many, but if they would follow the directions on the label they would still be alive today. A lot of people will loss their jobs if Methylene Chloride is ban. There are a lot of chemical more dangerous than Methylene Chloride. Are we going to ban them?


Comment from Bob Flexner, (11/5/2018, 3:59 PM)

I don’t know if I’m more upset with the EPA or the chain stores that are removing methylene-chloride and NMP strippers from their shelves. I think all of them, along with the consumer groups and various news media, are overhyping an issue that they really don’t understand. I’ve written about this in several woodworking magazines and three times on my blog. Here are the links. https://www.popularwoodworking.com/flexner-on-finishing-woodworking-blogs/methylene-chloride-proposed-ban-misguided-policy/ https://www.popularwoodworking.com/flexner-on-finishing-blog/methylene-chloride-part-2-some-retailers-take-certain-paint-strippers-off-their-shelves/ https://www.popularwoodworking.com/editors-blog/methylene-chloride-part-3-im-still-trying-to-stir-up-some-resistance-to-what-is-happening/


Comment from Andrew Piedl, (11/6/2018, 8:51 AM)

As someone who only uses paint strippers as part of occasional renovation projects, I can't understand why anyone would prefer these toxic strippers to any of the less or non-toxic alternatives currently available. I suppose they work faster and are cheaper, but not having to worry about ventilating a space makes completing a task much easier and less complicated (like, when I was stripping the wood in my kid's bedroom closet during the winter). Even if it doesn't kill you right away, there are numerous health risks associated with this product. Just take a look at a Safety Data Sheet.


Comment from Michael Halliwell, (11/6/2018, 11:19 AM)

As much as everyone loves to blame the EPA, they are in as much a bureaucratic mess as the OSHA...it takes forever to get anything done (even if the politicians and lobby groups don't take the legs out from under them first) and either before or after they actually change anything, they have everything put on hold as lawsuits abound.


Comment from Thomas Van Hooser, (11/10/2018, 12:13 PM)

Users of this material, like all other material, have a responsibility to know and follow health and safety precautions as specified by the SDS with strict enforcement by management and supervision. Who is really responsible and accountable?


Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (11/13/2018, 8:55 AM)

The reasoning for banning methylene chloride strippers is weak, and the reasoning for banning NMP is non-existent. How the heck did NMP even get included in this proposed ban?


Comment from Michael Halliwell, (11/14/2018, 6:08 PM)

It would be interesting to see if it is the toxicity info and carcinogenicity or the fatalities doe to lack of proper use that are driving the bans. (Science vs. politics / optics thing again)


Comment from Stephen Jewitt, (11/16/2018, 11:59 AM)

Methylene Chloride strippers have been off the market for years in Europe. Other less acutely toxic alternatives have been developed and are being used. REACh in Europe has determined which chemicals are problematic. The process makes it increasingly expensive to use these problem chemicals so the industry develops alternative, less toxic solutions. It works. The EPA should adopt the REACh methodologies and not start to do it all over again for USA Inc.


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