March 21, 2019

EPA to Ban Methylene Chloride in Paint Removers for Consumer Use

On Friday, EPA issued a final rule to prohibit the manufacture, processing, and distribution of methylene chloride in all paint removers for consumer use. A prepublication version of the agency’s final rule (PDF) states that EPA has determined that the use of the chemical in consumer paint- and coating-removal products presents “an unreasonable risk of injury to health due to acute human lethality.”

The rule does not address commercial uses of methylene chloride. EPA said it will solicit input on a future rulemaking that could establish a training, certification, and limited-access program for methylene chloride for commercial uses.

The solvent methylene chloride is a volatile, colorless liquid with a sweet-smelling odor used in a variety of industries, including paint and coating removal, plastic processing, metal cleaning and degreasing, and adhesive manufacturing. A final risk assessment completed by EPA in 2014 (PDF) indicates health risks to both workers and consumers who use products containing methylene chloride. At that time, EPA estimated that more than 230,000 U.S. workers are exposed to methylene chloride from paint-stripping products containing the chemical. That estimate does not account for workers who are indirectly exposed when others in a facility are performing paint stripping using methylene chloride. The agency is conducting another risk evaluation of methylene chloride under the Toxic Substances Control Act as amended by the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act in 2016.

OSHA and NIOSH issued a joint hazard alert in early 2013 to warn of methylene chloride hazards for bathtub refinishers. In 2016, OSHA issued a “Fatal Facts” sheet stating that the agency had identified 17 worker deaths related to bathtub refinishing using paint removers containing methylene chloride from 2000 to 2015.