EPA: Ban toxic methylene chloride
Methylene chloride (also known as dichloromethane or DCM), is an organohalogen solvent used in paint or coating removers and other products such as degreasers, and spot removers, among others. When fumes from methylene chloride build up, the chemical can cause asphyxiation and heart attacks. It’s happened to dozens of people who used paint and coating removers with the chemical, including Kevin Hartley and Joshua Atkins. Not one more family should lose a loved one to this chemical.
EPA and Corporate Actions
In 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed banning methylene chloride in paint stripping (for both consumer and commercial uses). Later that year, methylene chloride was one of the first ten “existing” chemicals on which EPA began a risk evaluation to review all uses of the chemical.
Toxic-Free Future campaigned to convince a dozen retailers, including Lowe’s, The Home Depot, and Walmart, to voluntarily stop selling paint strippers with this chemical. After meetings with families of people who had died due to acute exposures to the chemical, the EPA finally banned it from consumer products in 2019, but allowed continued use in the workplace—where it can be just as deadly as when it is used at home. In fact, of 85 documented fatalities due to exposure from 1985-2018, exposures on the job led to 75% of the deaths.
In 2020 and 2022, the EPA issued risk evaluations that found the vast majority of methylene chloride’s uses pose “unreasonable risk of injury to health or the environment.” In 2023, EPA proposed a ban on all consumer uses and most industrial and commercial uses of the chemical, with workplace protection requirements for time-limited critical use exemptions and notable exemptions for certain federal agencies.
We continue to press EPA to protect us all from all hazardous uses of this dangerous chemical.
- 2023: EPA issued a final rule prohibiting all consumer and most commercial and industrial uses of methylene chloride.
- 2022 & 2023: Toxic-Free Future led coalition partners in comments, testimony and meetings with EPA to advocate for a strong final rule banning most if not all uses of methylene chloride.
- 2022: EPA issued a revised risk determination finding that all but one of 53 conditions of use posed an “unreasonable risk” to public health and the environment.
- 2021: A peer-reviewed study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) showed that more workers than consumers die from methylene chloride exposure.
- 2021: EPA withdrew the part of the proposed 2017 rule that would have protected workers by banning commercial uses of paint strippers containing methylene chloride.
- 2019: Safer Chemicals Healthy Families worked with the mothers of two men who died using products containing the chemical, Lauren Atkins and Wendy Hartley, and Vermont PIRG to file suit in federal court for the failure to finalize the full ban.
- 2019: EPA Administrator Wheeler finalized a limited ban on consumer uses and sales of methylene chloride in paint strippers, leaving American workers unprotected.
- 2017 to 2019: Toxic-Free Future’s Mind the Store program led a national campaign securing commitments from more than a dozen major retailers including Lowe’s, The Home Depot, Walmart, Amazon.com, and others to stop selling paint and coating removers containing methylene chloride and its regrettable substitute NMP.
- 2017 & 2018: The families of four men who died while using paint and coating removers containing methylene chloride contacted EPA Administrators Pruitt and Wheeler in support of the proposed bans.
- 2017: the Environmental Protection Agency proposed banning methylene chloride and N-methylpyrrolidone (NMP) from use in paint strippers for both consumer and commercial use, receiving tens of thousands of comments in support.
- 2016: After nearly 10 years of advocacy by a national coalition of hundreds of organizations led by Safer Chemicals Healthy Families, President Obama signed the Lautenberg Chemical Safety Act into law, reforming TSCA and giving the EPA the authority it needed to ban harmful chemicals like methylene chloride.
- 2014: As part of its risk assessments on chemicals in EPA’s work plan, EPA identified cancer risk concerns and short-term and long-term non-cancer risks for workers and “occupational bystanders” (other workers within the facility who are indirectly exposed) from the use of DCM-containing paint strippers, also identifying short-term non-cancer risks for consumers and residential bystanders from the use of DCM-containing paint strippers.