November 7, 2019

EPA: Certain Uses of NMP Present "Unreasonable" Risks to Workers, Consumers

A new draft risk evaluation (PDF) published by EPA on Monday identifies “unreasonable risks associated with acute and chronic inhalation and dermal exposure” to N-methylpyrrolidone, or NMP. The draft document describes how workers and consumers could be adversely affected by NMP under certain conditions of use. EPA reviewed 30 potential uses of NMP to develop its draft risk evaluation. These potential uses include adhesives, sealants, arts and craft paints, paint and coating removers, adhesive removers, and degreasers. The agency did not find risk to the environment, bystanders, or occupational non-users, or workers in the general area of NMP use.

EPA urges workers who use products containing NMP to follow label instructions and applicable workplace regulations and to use appropriate personal protective equipment such as protective gloves. According to the agency, a variety of alternatives to NMP—including other chemical products and mechanical methods—are available for paint and coating removal uses. EPA intends to perform additional work in the coming months to identify whether alternatives exist for other uses of NMP.

EPA previously completed a risk assessment of NMP in 2015 that indicates that duration of use and a product’s concentration of NMP both affect risk associated with NMP use. According to EPA’s 2015 risk assessment, short-term exposures (1–2 hours) to products containing 25 percent or less of NMP result in no risk. However, the agency identified risks from acute and chronic exposures for those who use products containing higher concentrations of the chemical.

NMP is a common alternative to the solvent methylene chloride, which is used in a variety of industries, including paint and coating removal, plastic processing, metal cleaning and degreasing, and adhesive manufacturing. A draft risk evaluation published by EPA last week describes “adverse health risks associated with acute and chronic inhalation exposure” to methylene chloride under some conditions of use. An EPA final rule that went into effect on May 28, 2019, prohibits the manufacture, processing, and distribution of methylene chloride in all paint removers for consumer use. When EPA originally proposed the rule, it also proposed to regulate NMP in paint and coating removal. The agency did not finalize its proposed “unreasonable risk” determination for NMP in paint and coating removal in the rule. Instead, EPA said it would incorporate NMP use in the risk evaluation for the chemical.

EPA’s new draft risk evaluation of NMP is the sixth that EPA has published under the amended TSCA legislation. As amended by the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, which was signed into law in June 2016, TSCA requires EPA to complete risk evaluations for 10 chemicals, including NMP, by December 2019.

EPA is accepting comments on its new draft risk evaluation until Jan. 6, 2020. The Science Advisory Committee on Chemicals—a federal advisory committee charged with providing scientific advice, information, and recommendations to EPA on chemicals regulated under TSCA legislation—will also review the draft risk evaluation during a meeting that will be held Dec. 5–6, 2019. EPA urges individuals to submit comments on the draft risk evaluation by Nov. 26 to allow the committee time to review them prior to the meeting. Comments submitted after Nov. 26 and before the Jan.6 deadline will still be considered.