EPA Releases Guide for Methylene Chloride Ruling


Last week, the Environmental Protection Agency released a new guide to help methylene chloride processors and distributors comply with the final rule issued in March under the Toxic Substances Control Act that prohibits the manufacture, processing or distribution in commerce of methylene chloride for consumer use.

While that rule went into effect May 28, requirements for downstream notification and recordkeeping for all manufacturers, processors and distributors of the chemical—including retailers—went into effect Aug. 27.

What Happened

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.

Lawsuits and Rulings

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

While the rule went into effect May 28, requirements for downstream notification and recordkeeping for all manufacturers, processors and distributors of the chemical—including retailers—went into effect Aug. 27.

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.

Sure enough, in March, the EPA 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 remains available.

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

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.

What Now

The new guide aims to help in compliance and describes the requirements the EPA has established to address unreasonable risks from the use of methylene chloride in consumer paint and coating removal. The guide also:

  • Defines key terms;
  • Identifies the regulated entities;
  • Describes the required or prohibited activities; and
  • Summarized the downstream notification and recordkeeping requirements.

“The rule is fully effective on Nov. 22, when prohibitions on manufacturing (including importing), processing or distributing methylene chloride for consumer paint and coating removal go into effect,” the EPA notes.

“This includes a prohibition on distributing any methylene chloride for paint and coating removal to or by retailers, including e-commerce retailers.”


Tagged categories: Chemical stripping; EPA; EPA; Good Technical Practice; Government; Methylene chloride; NA; North America; Regulations

Join the Conversation:

Sign in to our community to add your comments.