For the first time in thirty years, the EPA has adopted a final risk management rule limiting the use of methylene chloride for stripping paint and coatings in consumer applications pursuant to Section 6 of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). The final rule will become effective on May 28, 2019 as 40 CFR Part 751 Subpart B.
Under the final rule, the manufacturing, processing and distribution of methylene chloride for use in consumer paints and coating removal will be banned. In addition, the final rule requires that the manufacturing, processing and distribution of methylene chloride for any other use must be accompanied by a notification describing the restriction. The rule also specifies that certain records be maintained.
The EPA reported that over 250 million pounds of methylene chloride was manufactured or imported in 2015. Paint and coating removal accounted for less than 10 percent of that total amount. The EPA concluded that since 1976, at least 53 fatalities have resulted from consumer or commercial exposure to methylene chloride in paint and coating removal products. The 2012 TSCA Work Plan designated methylene chloride as “high” for health and exposure risks. The 2014 update to the TSCA Work Plan also identified methylene chloride and published a risk assessment for methylene chloride.
Absent from the EPA’s final rule is any restriction on the presence of methylene chloride in paint strippers for commercial purposes. This issue was debated during a hearing of the House Energy & Commerce Committee. In contrast to this approach, the California Department of Toxic Substances Control identified paint and varnish strippers with methylene chloride as a priority product for both consumer and commercial purposes in accordance with the Safer Consumer Products program. To address methylene chloride for commercial uses, the EPA will publish an advance notice of proposed rulemaking to collect comments regarding training and access to methylene chloride in commercial applications for paint and coating removal products. The deadline for public comments on this matter is May 28, 2019.
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