EDF Health

Selected tag(s): methylene chloride

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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In 2016 industry-funded paper, Dourson and Beck sought weaker standard for lethal paint stripper chemical

Richard Denison, Ph.D.is a Lead Senior Scientist.

[Use this link to see all of our posts on Dourson.]

[See clarification added on 10-26-17 in brackets below.]

The New York Times’ investigation “Why Has the E.P.A. Shifted on Toxic Chemicals? An Industry Insider Helps Call the Shots” published this past Sunday cited evidence that Nancy Beck – a political appointee in EPA’s chemical safety office who until May was a senior official at the American Chemistry Council (ACC) – is questioning the need for EPA’s proposed rule to ban the use of the deadly chemical dichloromethane (also called methylene chloride) in paint and coating removers.  These products are responsible for dozens of deaths in recent years.

The Times’ story also noted in its last paragraph that Beck and Michael Dourson – the Trump Administration’s controversial nominee to lead EPA’s chemical safety office – are co-authors on a 2016 paper that was funded by ACC.  That paper was published in the industry’s go-to journal, Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology, where Dourson has published most of his papers.

The paper is of interest and relevant for another reason as well:  Dourson and Beck assert that the acceptable risk levels EPA has set for 24 chemicals are all too stringent and should be relaxed by anywhere from 2.5 to 150 fold.  (Funny, isn’t it, how the numbers for all 24 chemicals all went in the same direction?)

Among these 24 chemicals is the paint-stripping chemical dichloromethane (aka methylene chloride).  This chemical is a particularly concerning one:  It is a likely carcinogen and is linked to numerous other chronic health impacts, but it is also acutely and tragically lethal.   Dourson and Beck call for EPA’s standard for the chemical to be relaxed to a level that is 8.3 times less protective. [Clarification added 10-26-17:  This factor applies to EPA's ingestion standard (reference dose); Dourson and Beck's proposed adjustment to EPA's inhalation standard (reference concentration) was 2.5-fold less protective.]

The Times article makes clear that, despite her prior work on this chemical while at ACC, and the fact that this chemical is made by numerous ACC companies, Beck has not recused herself from making decisions about its risk and regulatory responses – decisions that are being considered at EPA even as I write.  Indeed, as I noted earlier this week, her astounding ethics agreement gives her wide latitude to work on issues in which ACC has financial interests in order to ensure those interests are taken into account.

In Dourson’s nomination hearing held by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on October 4, he was repeatedly asked if he would, if confirmed, recuse himself from work on chemicals he had been paid by industry to work on, and he repeatedly refused to say he would do so.

One more reason that Michael Dourson should not be entrusted with our health and the Senate should reject his nomination to head EPA’s toxics office.

Just yesterday, Dourson’s nomination was voted out of the committee by an 11-10 vote.  The fight over his nomination now moves to the full Senate.

 

Posted in Health Policy, Health Science, Industry Influence, TSCA Reform / Also tagged | Comments are closed

Another tragic death — time for EPA to ban high-risk chemical paint strippers

Lindsay McCormick is a Project Manager.  

A few weeks ago, a 21-year-old man tragically passed away after being overcome by chemical fumes while refinishing a bathtub.  The young man was working for a small painting business in Tennessee.  His death is currently being investigated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), but is suspected to have been caused by methylene chloride exposure.  If confirmed, this would add to the dozens of reported deaths caused by the chemical’s use in paint stripping products over the past several decades.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has within its grasp the ability to prevent this type of tragedy from happening again. In January, EPA proposed to ban methylene chloride in paint and coating removal products – including those used for bathtub refinishing, and is considering a ban on such use of another highly toxic chemical called N-methylpyrrolidone.  The agency based its proposal on an extensive assessment of the scientific literature, which demonstrated not only lethal risks from acute methylene chloride exposure but also other health impacts from both short- and long-term exposure to both chemicals.

Products containing these chemicals are available at hardware and other retail stores across the country, and unless EPA acts promptly to finalize a ban, there will surely be more avoidable deaths and other health impacts due to use of high-risk chemical paint strippers.  In EDF’s recent comments to EPA, we strongly urged it to finalize these bans as soon as possible to protect public health.  EPA should not wait for another reason to take action.

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No, chemical industry, you can’t have your cake and eat it too (Part 1)

Richard Denison, Ph.D.is a Lead Senior Scientist.

There is an extreme anti-regulatory and anti-science bandwagon moving fast through Washington, and much of the chemical industry seems to have jumped right on board.  We’re also seeing growing signs of industry pushback against even modest early actions EPA is taking to implement the Lautenberg Act, which reformed the obsolete Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) and passed with strong bipartisan support only last June.

Companies have every right to provide their input to EPA and argue the case for their chemicals in accordance with designated processes the agency has established for this purpose.  But resorting to tactics of obstruction and delay won’t fool anyone.  That’s the very thing that brought about the public crisis in confidence surrounding this industry in the first place.

I’ll address these concerns in this and a second post to follow.  This post will address several attempts by some in the chemical industry to thwart EPA’s efforts to implement the new TSCA.  The second post will look at the industry’s main trade association’s unabashed – indeed, boisterous – support for a new Executive Order and multiple “regulatory reform” bills moving in Congress, which it embraces despite the fact that they would impose on EPA (and other agencies’) rulemakings – including those under the new TSCA – dozens of new knot-tying strictures, some of which the Lautenberg Act just got rid of.

This suggests that some in the industry have a very short memory:  What led the industry to finally support TSCA reform was its recognition that the public, other levels of government and the market itself have little confidence in the safety of its products or the ability of government to protect people and the environment from toxic chemicals.  Any relief it sought from its initial endorsement of a stronger federal chemical safety system will quickly dissipate if industry representatives – emboldened by the current political climate – take actions to stymie implementation of the new law and to buoy executive and legislative vehicles that would bring the regulatory system to a grinding halt.

So, let’s start with a few of the battles that some in the industry are waging to undercut recent EPA actions, authorized under the new TSCA, to restrict three highly toxic chemicals – trichloroethylene (TCE), methylene chloride (MC) and N-methylpyrrolidone (NMP) – the first such actions taken under TSCA in nearly 30 years.  Read More »

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