EPA Finalizes Paint-Stripper Rule


Last Friday, (March 15) the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued a final rule to prohibit the manufacture and importing, processing and distribution of methylene chloride in all paint removers for consumer use.

However, sales to contractors and other professionals will remain available.

Revaluating the Rule

In January 2017, the EPA announced that it was considering a ban on the use of methylene chloride. Reports under the Obama administration determined that the common chemical in paint-strippers placed consumers, workers and bystanders at an unreasonable risk of injury.

In May 2018, the EPA announced that it would be moving forward with that original ruling and stated 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;
  • was not re-evaluating the paint-stripping uses of methylene chloride and was relying on its previous risk assessments; and
  • was 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 that 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 regarding 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 original 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 had notified the EPA of its intent to sue over its failure to finalize a rule.

A Lawsuit is Made

Groups including Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, Vermont Public Interest Research Group and two families of victims who have died from methylene chloride exposure filed a lawsuit against the EPA over its failure to prohibit the use of the chemical on Jan. 14 in the U.S. District Court of Vermont.

USMC / Cpl. Rubin J. Tan

Groups including Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, Vermont Public Interest Research Group and two families of victims who have died from methylene chloride exposure filed a lawsuit against the EPA over its failure to prohibit the use of the chemical on Jan. 14 in the U.S. District Court of Vermont.

The lawsuit was first threatened back in November 2018, when the groups notified the EPA of its intent to sue. The group refers to the TSA, which requires the EPA to regulate chemicals that present an unreasonable risk to human health or the environment.

Specifically, the group asked the court to finalize the original January 2017 proposed TSCA Section 6 rule, which completely bans the product.

However, the reports from EPA documents released shortly before the suit was filed showed that the EPA intended to ban the retail use of the chemical—not an industry-wide ban.

What’s Happening Now

Now, more than two years after the EPA first proposed the ban, it has released its final rule.

“After analyzing the health impacts and listening to affected families, EPA is taking action to stop the use of this chemical in paint removers intended for consumers,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler.

“Today’s decision reflects EPA’s commitment to ensure that chemicals in the retail marketplace are safe for the American public.”

In addition, the EPA is soliciting public input over the next 60 days for future rulemaking to establish a training, certification and limited access program for commercial uses of methylene chloride.

The decision drew immediate backlash from public health advocates, however, as employees of professionals who still use methylene chloride remain at risk of death and long-term health effects.

“I am deeply disappointed that the EPA has decided to weaken its proposed ban on methylene chloride,” said Wendy Hartley, whose 21-year-old son, Kevin, died two years ago while refinishing a bathtub even after being trained in how to apply the paint-stripper.

“Getting this deadly chemical out of consumers’ hands is a step in the right direction—a step that was started by retailers nationwide. Workers who use methylene chloride will now be left unprotected and at risk of health issues or death. I will continue my fight until the EPA does its job.”

Various manufacturers of the methylene-chloride-based strippers have argued that the products are safe, if those using it have adequate training, and are pleased that the EPA is considering establishing a federal training and certificate program.

These prohibitions are to start 180 days after the effective date of the final rule, which will provide time for establishments selling the chemical to consumers to come into a compliance with EPA’s ban. With companies already discontinuing the manufacture and sale of products containing methylene chloride, the EPA expects that many suppliers will implement the rule sooner.


Tagged categories: Chemical stripping; Chlorides; Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); EPA; Good Technical Practice; Government; Lawsuits; Methylene chloride; NA; North America; Paint and Coating Sales; Paint Removal; PaintSquare App - Commercial

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