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Trump EPA abandons protections from dangerous chemicals

WASHINGTON, DCIn tomorrow’s Federal Register, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will formally announce withdrawal of rules proposed in 2017 banning methylene chloride’s (MC) commercial paint stripping uses, trichloroethylene’s (TCE) aerosol de-greasing and spot cleaning uses, and n-Methylpyrrolidone’s (NMP) paint stripping uses.  EPA cites pending risk management processes for the chemicals under TSCA Section 6(a) to justify the withdrawal.

In response, Safer Chemicals Healthy Families Director Liz Hitchcock issued the following statement:

“We are horrified, but not shocked, that the Trump EPA would take this action at the eleventh hour. 

Every single day, workers and communities are exposed to and harmed by these dangerous chemicals.  Dozens of families have lost loved ones to the use of methylene chloride paint strippers on the job. EPA’s refusal to act in the wake of thousands of citizen comments, a mountain of scientific evidence, and hours of testimony in support of these protections is public health malpractice.

The Biden Administration should act quickly to address these dangerous chemicals.”

Methylene chloride, also known as dichloromethane or DCM, is a solvent used in a range of products. Methylene chloride has been linked to cancer, cognitive impairment, and asphyxiation. Many methylene chloride-based paint and coating removers are used in areas with limited ventilation such as bathrooms, allowing fumes to build up. Methylene chloride vapor is heavier than air, so it concentrates low to the ground, right around the level where people stripping surfaces are breathing. According to EPA, respiratory protection may not be enough to protect people from being exposed where levels of methylene chloride are high.

N-Methylpyrrolidone, also known as NMP or 1-methyl-2-pyrrolidone, is a solvent used in a range of products. The average consumer is most likely to encounter it in paint strippers, even though safer alternatives exist. NMP has been closely linked to developmental impacts including miscarriages. EPA describes NMP as a developmental toxicant. 

Tricholoroethylene (TCE) is a volatile organic compound mostly used to manufacture refrigerant chemicals in a closed system. EPA classifies TCE as carcinogenic to humans by all routes of exposure. EPA has found that TCE has the potential to induce neurotoxicity, immunotoxicity, developmental toxicity, liver  toxicity, kidney toxicity, and endocrine effects.

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Stephanie Stohler, [email protected]

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