EDF Health

Selected tag(s): methylene chloride

EDF to OMB: Ban on methylene chloride in paint strippers must protect workers in addition to consumers

Lindsay McCormick, Project Manager, and Joanna Slaney, Legislative Director

Over 11,000 concerned Americans have sent messages to Members of Congress over the last two weeks to urge EPA and OMB to protect workers – the population at most risk – from methylene chloride in paint strippers.

Today, EDF met with the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) about the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) draft final rule on methylene chloride-based paint strippers. We urged the office to ensure the ban on methylene chloride-based paint and coating removers covers both consumer and most commercial uses – as the agency originally proposed.

Removing these deadly products from stores, workplaces, and homes is a critical step to protecting public health. Methylene chloride is acutely lethal. Exposure to the chemical has led to over 50 reported worker deaths since the mid-1980s, more than 40 of which are attributed to use of methylene chloride-based paint strippers. Many more deaths have likely gone unreported. The chemical is also associated with a host of other serious health effects, including neurotoxicity, cancer, and liver impairment.

Despite the facts that workers represent the vast majority of reported deaths and face the highest risks of other health effects, it appears that EPA is poised to finalize a rule that excludes a ban on commercial uses entirely – and will instead merely initiate a lengthy, uncertain process that may lead to certification and training approaches EPA had already considered and rejected as inadequate to protect workers.

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One click away: We discovered just how easy it still is to purchase deadly paint strippers

Sam Lovell, Project Specialist, and Andrew ReaganCampaign Project Manager.

Methylene chloride is a deadly chemical used in common paint stripping products. It is known to have caused over 50 deaths from acute exposure – though many more likely have gone unreported. Health impacts from lower-level, chronic exposure to the chemical through use of these products, while much harder to measure, have no doubt occurred as well. Due to its health risks, the EPA proposed a rule to ban consumer and most commercial uses of the chemical in paint and coating removal products on January 12, 2017. Over a year and a half later, the ban on methylene chloride in paint strippers still has not been finalized.

As the current Administration continues to delay action on this critical ban, some companies have stepped up and committed to take paint strippers containing methylene chloride off their shelves. Unfortunately, this isn’t enough to protect all consumers or workers. We found out that it’s still shockingly easy to buy products containing the chemical from other companies – it’s a simple click away.

To figure out just how easy it is, we searched for “paint stripper” and “paint remover” on Amazon. On the first page of our search results were several products containing methylene chloride. (This information is not at all obvious to consumers – you need to read the fine print on the product description.)

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Walmart joins ranks of retailers pulling toxic paint strippers from shelves – when will EPA follow suit?

Sarah Vogel, Ph.D.is Vice-President for Health.

Today, Walmart announced that it will stop selling paint strippers containing methylene chloride or N-methylpyrrolidone (NMP) in stores by February 2019 – making it the first general merchandise retailer to take such action.  Walmart’s announcement follows the strong leadership demonstrated by Lowes, Home Depot, and Sherwin Williams, all of which have committed not to sell methylene chloride- and NMP-based paint stripping products by the end of the year.  Importantly, Walmart’s action goes beyond its U.S. stores, including those in Mexico, Canada, and Central America, as well as their online store.

The announcement signals an important step by Walmart to better protect consumers from dangerous paint strippers. Methylene chloride is highly neurotoxic and acutely lethal. The chemical is responsible for over 50 reported deaths from acute exposure over the last 35 years – though many more likely have gone unreported. NMP is linked to fetal development problems, including low birth weight and birth defects.

EDF has advocated for several years for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to ban both methylene chloride- and NMP-based paint strippers, using its enhanced authority under the reformed Toxic Substance Control Act.  In January 2017, EPA proposed to ban methylene chloride and restrict NMP in paint strippers, but action has stalled under the Trump Administration.  For over a year, the agency made no effort to finalize these actions – even taking steps to delay any progress.

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Methylene chloride in paint strippers: A ban is the only health-protective path forward

Lindsay McCormick is a Project Manager and Richard Denison, Ph.D.is a Lead Senior Scientist.

Last week, EPA signaled it will advance a delayed rule regulating consumer and worker use of methylene chloride-based paint strippers.  Numerous details of EPA’s announcement remain to be filled in, and we caution EPA to avoid approaches short of the ban that was proposed.

The record for EPA’s proposed ban is clear:  Allowing such products to stay on the market based on reliance on such factors as increased labeling, protective equipment, or training requirements simply will not protect the public’s or workers’ health.

Sadly, the companies that make the chemical and paint strippers containing it are already seeking to resurrect those old arguments.   Read More »

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Critical “blanks” in EPA’s methylene chloride announcement need to be filled in if it is to be health-protective

EPA’s announcement that it will move forward on its proposed rule to ban the use of methylene chloride in paint and coating removal products, while encouraging, left critical details unanswered.  We look forward to EPA filling in the blanks.

EDF posted a statement earlier on the announcement here.  In addition, here are five things the final rule must do to be health-protective:

  • Ban distribution in commerce and use of methylene chloride for paint and coating removal
  • Extend to both consumer and commercial uses to ensure that workers are also protected
  • Not provide exemptions based on training, labeling or use of protective equipment
  • Be finalized and implemented quickly
  • Require full compliance within as short as possible a period

 

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Encouraging EPA Response to Families on Deadly Paint Stripping Chemical

This statement is attributable to Dr. Sarah Vogel, Vice President for Health, Environmental Defense Fund:

“On Tuesday, Wendy Hartley and Cindy Wynne – both of whom lost their sons to methylene chloride exposure – met with members of Congress and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, asking that use of this deadly chemical in paint and coating removal products be banned.

We are encouraged that today EPA has decided to reverse course and move forward to finalize its proposed rule banning methylene chloride in these products.  We are also encouraged that EPA is not re-evaluating the paint stripping uses of methylene chloride and is relying on its previous risk assessments, which found very high risks to consumers and workers from these products.

It needs to be noted that EPA’s statement falls short of committing to finalize a ban.  It is vitally important that EPA move quickly to implement a ban, and that includes ensuring necessary administrative procedures are followed to guarantee a permanent ban and that these products are promptly removed from store shelves. We and families across this country will be watching closely to make sure this Administration actually delivers on today’s promise from Administrator Pruitt.

The credit for any step forward here belongs entirely to the brave members of the Hartley, Wynne and Atkins families who, to honor their sons and protect all of us, fought to ban this deadly chemical. They received important support from Senators Graham, Carper, Scott, and Udall and Representatives Sanford, Pallone, DeGette, Tonko, and Lowey, and others.

We will delay any celebration until paint strippers containing this deadly chemical are actually off the market.  There are a number of steps that now must be taken in order to effectively finalize and implement this ban.

But if methylene chloride in paint strippers is effectively removed from the marketplace, it will be a good day for American families.”

 

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