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EPA Finalizes Paint Stripper Chemical Ban

THURSDAY, MAY 2, 2024


At the end of last month, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency finalized a ban on most uses of methylene chloride to protect workers and communities from fatal exposure.

Methylene chloride is used in a variety of ways including consumer uses such as aerosol degreasers and brush cleaners for paints and coatings, commercial applications such as adhesives and sealants, and in industrial settings for making other chemicals. 

The final risk management rule is expected to protect people from health risk while allowing key uses to continue safely with a new worker protection program. This is the second final action using the process created by the 2016 Toxic Substances Control Act amendments.

“Exposure to methylene chloride has devastated families across this country for too long, including some who saw loved ones go to work and never come home,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “EPA’s final action brings an end to unsafe methylene chloride practices and implements the strongest worker protections possible for the few remaining industrial uses, ensuring no one in this country is put in harm’s way by this dangerous chemical.”

About the Final Rule

The EPA explains that, since 1980, at least 88 people have died from acute exposure to methylene chloride, largely workers engaged in bathtub refinishing or other paint stripping. In some cases, these workers were fully trained and equipped with personal protective equipment.

While the agency banned one consumer use of the chemical in 2019, the final risk management rule requires companies to rapidly 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 reportedly be phased out within a year, and most industrial and commercial uses will be prohibited within two years. However, for a handful of highly industrialized uses, the EPA has created a Workplace Chemical Protection Program.

The workplace chemical protection program includes strict exposure limits, monitoring requirements, and worker training and notification requirements. Uses that will continue under the Workplace Chemical Protection Program are highly industrialized and important to national security and the economy, including:

  • 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; and
  • Use in solvent welding.

Additionally, specific uses of methylene chloride required by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the Department of Defense and the Federal Aviation Administration will continue with strict workplace controls because sufficient reductions in exposure are possible. 

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Modern Safety Techniques

For uses of methylene chloride continuing under the Workplace Chemical Protection Program, most workplaces will reportedly have 18 months after the finalization of the risk management rule to comply with the program.

They would also be required to periodically monitor their workplace to ensure that workers are not being exposed to levels of methylene chloride that would lead to an unreasonable risk. The agency adds that, in consideration of public comments on the proposal, it has extended the compliance timeframe to give workplaces ample time to put worker protections in place.

They also revised several other aspects from the proposal, including ensuring that the Workplace Chemical Protection Program applies to the same uses whether they are federal or commercial uses, establishing a de minimis concentration, and provisions to strengthen and clarify aspects of the Workplace Chemical Protection Program such as monitoring requirements.

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Quikspray, Inc.

The EPA proposed the methylene chloride ban in April last year, noting that its unreasonable risk determination was driven by risks associated with workers, occupational non-users (workers nearby but not in direct contact with this chemical), consumers and those in close proximity to a consumer use.

Additionally, the EPA identified risks for adverse human health effects, including neurotoxicity, liver effects and cancer from inhalation and dermal exposures to methylene chloride.

On April 18, the White House’s Office of Management and Budget completed its review of the EPA’s proposed ban on most uses of methylene chloride under the TSCA. According to E&E News, the rule has drawn ire from lawmakers who say that the rule could have “catastrophic effects” on the industry, potentially ending all United States manufacturing of polycarbonate. Additionally, they alleged that the EPA has overestimated the health risks of the chemical.

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Rapid Prep, LLC

Now that the rule is finalized, it is the second of the “high-priority substances” to receive a rule under the 2016 amendments to the TSCA. The EPA finalized the first rule to ban the only known form of asbestos currently used or imported into the country in March.

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Tagged categories: Coating chemistry; Coating Materials - Commercial; Environmental Controls; Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); EPA; Good Technical Practice; Government; hazardous materials; Hazards; Health & Safety; Health and safety; Methylene chloride; Program/Project Management; Regulations; Toxicity; Workers


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