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EPA’s Draft Risk Evaluation for Methylene Chloride Sets The Stage for Potential Regulation – And Controversy

On October 29, 2019, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its draft risk evaluation for methylene chloride pursuant to the federal Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). The draft addresses risks to workers, occupational non-users, consumers and bystanders (from consumer use). The Environmental Defense Fund has criticized EPA’s draft risk evaluation on a number of grounds, including EPA’s assumption that workers will use personal protective equipment consistently and properly. Ultimately, the results of the risk evaluation may be integrated into TSCA restrictions and, possibly, even bans, on the use of methylene chloride.

Methylene chloride has been used for years as a solvent in a number of different applications, including paint and coating removers, adhesives and sealants, and degreasing products. Aside from potential chronic effects, methylene chloride can be fatal if used in poorly ventilated areas. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, 17 workers died between 2000 and 2015 using methylene chloride products to refinish bathtubs.

EPA has preliminarily concluded that methylene chloride poses unreasonable risks to human health for:

  • Workers processing methylene chloride into a formulation or mixture, all but two industrial and commercial uses considered by EPA, and disposal;
  • Occupational non-users during import of methylene chloride, processing methylene chloride as a reactant in certain industrial sectors, some industrial and commercial uses, and disposal;
  • Consumers for virtually all conditions of use considered by EPA, including the use of art and hobby materials and automotive products; and
  • Bystanders, for largely the same conditions of use as identified for consumers.

In March 2019, EPA finalized a separate TSCA rule prohibiting the manufacture (including import), processing, and distribution of methylene chloride in all paint and coating removers for consumer use. The prohibition takes effect on November 22, 2019.

The deadline for comments on EPA’s draft risk evaluation is December 30, 2019. EPA’s Science Advisory Committee on Chemicals also will be holding a peer review meeting on December 3-4, 2019.

Grimaldi Law Offices has been advising clients for over 20 years on chemical and product regulation. For knowledgeable advice and in-depth analysis on your chemical regulatory compliance obligations, contact Grimaldi Law Offices at (415) 463-5186 or email us at [email protected].

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Ms. Grimaldi maintains a diverse environmental law practice focusing on chemical and product regulation and litigation defense. Her practice areas include Proposition 65, California's Safer Consumer Products Regulations, California's Rigid Plastic Packaging Container Act and the federal Toxic Substances Control Act. Ms. Grimaldi graduated from the University of California Hastings College of the Law magna cum laude and holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Bacteriology from University of California, Davis. Prior to attending law school, she worked as a research assistant in laboratories at the University of California, San Francisco Cancer Research Institute and at the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine.