EPA bans consumer sales of methylene chloride paint removers

EPA bans consumer sales of methylene chloride paint removers

Public interest groups, including EWG, Environmental Defense Fund, the Natural Resources Defense Council and Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, have called on the EPA to ban both commercial and consumer uses of paint strippers that contain the chemical.

An official for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced the ruling on an afternoon conference call with the media.

EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler signed the rule, which will bar manufacture and import of the stripper methylene chloride for consumer use, in a private meeting Friday with relatives of a man who died while using the paint stripper.

The regulation EPA finalized Friday reflects a compromise with the Pentagon, which lobbied for a carveout given the military's widespread use of paint strippers on bases across the globe.

But public outrage over the chemical's potential risks has escalated in recent years, as advocates shared their stories with lawmakers and regulators about family members who died from exposure to methylene chloride.

Exposure to methylene chloride fumes can rapidly cause dizziness, loss of consciousness and death due to nervous system depression, the agency said in a statement.

At least 64 deaths have been linked to exposure, according to Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, which has advocated against the chemical. Families have lost loved ones under tragic and heartbreaking circumstances.

"I am deeply disappointed that the EPA has made a decision to weaken its proposed ban on methylene chloride, " Hartley said in a statement.

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But, years lapsed without an official EPA ruling. Several large hardware stores like Lowe's and Home Depot have voluntarily removed products containing the chemical from their shelves. "Instead they are catering to the wishes of the chemical industry".

The sales prohibition on methylene chloride takes effect 180 days after the effective date of the ruling, which is 60 days from its publication in the federal register.

Dunn said the agency expects the rule to be published next week. The EPA is urging consumers not to use it.

Dunn said that if the agency decides that the chemical cannot be used safely in commercial operations, it could determine that it also poses an unreasonable risk to public health, "which could be banning it or restricting its use in some way".

Dunn added that if the EPA makes the determination the risks of methylene chloride can not be managed in the workplace, the agency will pursue appropriate risk management decisions.

EPA first said it would move forward on a ban last May.

Sen. Tom Carper, the top Democrat on the Environment and Public Works Committee, said in a statement that the consumer ban was a "step in the right direction" but added that it fell short of what the EPA had promised previous year.

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