EPA bans chemical found in some paint removers, industrial and consumer

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Methylene chlroide is a known carcinogen

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued a final order banning most uses of methylene chloride, a chemical found in some industrial and consumer paint-removing products.

The EPA said it took the action because the chemical is “known to cause liver cancer, lung cancer, breast cancer, brain cancer, cancer of the blood, and cancer of the central nervous system, as well as neurotoxicity, liver harm and even death.”

The rule does allow some uses of the chemical but only with a newly developed worker protection program.

“Exposure to methylene chloride has devastated families across this country for too long, including some who saw loved ones go to work and never come home,” said EPA Administrator Michael Regan.

“EPA’s final action brings an end to unsafe methylene chloride practices and implements the strongest worker protections possible for the few remaining industrial uses, ensuring no one in this country is put in harm’s way by this dangerous chemical.”

Consumer uses

Methylene chloride is used by consumers for aerosol degreasing and paint and coating brush cleaners, in commercial applications such as adhesives and sealants, and in industrial settings for making other chemicals. For example, methylene chloride is used in the production of more climate-friendly refrigerant chemicals.

The chemical has primarily been used in industrial settings, stripping paint from metal. The United Steel Workers Union issued a statement praising the ban, saying it would promote the health of steelworkers.

David McCall, international president of the union, says more than 100,000 workers die from occupational disease each year, including those sickened by harmful chemical exposures. 

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