EPA Considers Progress with Paint Stripper Rule


The Environmental Protection Agency is reportedly getting ready to finalize its rule on methylene chloride.

According to government documents, the EPA sent proposals to the Office of Management and Budget late last month, just before the government shutdown, that ban the retail use of the chemical, but not the commercial use—a move that has sparked reaction on both sides.


The EPA proposed a ban on methylene chloride in January 2017, shortly before former President Barack Obama ended his tenure. 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 and said that, as part of its requirement in the switch from the Lautenberg Chemical Safety to the Toxic Substances Control Act, it was nearing completion of the Problem Formulations portion of a review of 10 specific chemicals, and had made a decision on methylene chloride.

The update at the time 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 first proposed prohibiting the consumer and commercial paint-stripping uses for the chemical.

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.

Since then, several paint manufacturers and box stores have discontinued the manufacturing or sale of products that contain methylene chloride and a group of environment and public health advocates notified the EPA of its intent to sue over its failure to finalize a rule.

What Now

The Washington Post reports that the OMB documents would allow commercial operators to continue using the product as long as they underwent training, and bans the chemical’s use by consumers.

USMC / Cpl. Rubin J. Tan

The Washington Post reports that the OMB documents would allow commercial operators to continue using the product as long as they underwent training, and bans the chemical’s use by consumers.

There are reportedly two draft final rules, one of which is called “Commercial Paint and Coating Removal Training, Certification and Limited Access Program,” but few details were available on such a program.

A source told the Post that the Defense Department lobbied to keep a commercial exemption with primary consideration to the military, which would receive an exemption of at least 10 years of any such ban.

Industry groups have long argued against an outright ban of the chemical, including the Halogenated Solvents Industry Alliance, which said in a statement that “When used as directed, they are the best products for efficient and effective paint removal. These paint strippers have been safely used by customers for more than 60 years. Methylene chloride-based paint strippers were developed decades ago in response to the fire and explosion risks posed by alternatives. It would be unfortunate if now methylene chloride-based paint strippers are replaced by substitutes that have issues with flammability, increased toxicity and efficacy.”

Others are still pressing for a complete ban despite the middle-ground reports.

“Despite explicit assurances provided to my office that [the] EPA would finalize a ban that protected both consumer and commercial users from this dangerous chemical, the Trump EPA appears to have failed to live up to those assurances,” said Sen. Thomas R. Carper (D-Del.).

“I will do everything in my power to ensure that the final rule takes all needed steps to ban a chemical so dangerous that it has killed dozens of Americans, including trained professionals who were taking precautions on the job.”


Tagged categories: Chemical stripping; EPA; EPA; Good Technical Practice; Government; Health and safety; Laws and litigation; Methylene chloride; North America; Safety

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