July 14, 2022

EPA Revises Risk Determinations for Three Solvents

EPA proposes to find that three solvents—methylene chloride, perchloroethylene (PCE), and n-methylpyrrolidone (NMP)—present “unreasonable [risks] of injury to human health” in draft revised risk determinations released in recent weeks. The revised risk determinations incorporate policy changes announced by EPA in June 2021 concerning personal protective equipment, risk management, unreasonable risk determinations, and exposure pathways. Unlike previous risk evaluations for these chemicals, which assumed that personal protective equipment was always provided to workers and worn properly in occupational settings, EPA’s new draft revised risk determinations do not assume the use of PPE. The new determinations also differ from previous risk evaluations in that they propose that the solvents present unreasonable risks as whole chemical substances, rather than making separate risk determinations for individual conditions of use. EPA’s new “whole chemical approach” applies “when it is clear the majority of the conditions of use warrant one determination,” the agency explains.

According to EPA, methylene chloride is used as a solvent in vapor degreasing and metal cleaning as well as an ingredient in sealants and adhesive removers. NMP, a common alternative to methylene chloride, is used in the manufacture of petrochemicals, electronics, and plastic material and resins. NMP is also used for producing and removing paints, coatings, and adhesives. PCE is also used as a solvent for cleaning and degreasing, and in lubricants, adhesives, and sealants, the agency says.

EPA is accepting comments related to its draft revised risk determinations on PCE and NMP until Aug. 1. Stakeholders have a few more days—until Aug. 4—to submit comments related to the revised risk determination for methylene chloride. Further details and instructions for submitting comments can be found in EPA’s press releases announcing its draft revised risk determinations for methylene chloride, PCE, and NMP.