Trump EPA Ignores Worker Safety in Decision on Paint-Stripper Chemical

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For Immediate Release: 
Friday, November 22, 2019

WASHINGTON – The Environmental Protection Agency announced today it will allow methylene chloride, a dangerous chemical that can kill a person on contact, to remain an ingredient in paint-stripper products for commercial use while banning those products for sale to consumers.  

The decision is a significant retreat from a ban on the chemical for both commercial and consumer use, proposed by the EPA more than two years ago.  

The EPA announced its final rule under the recently strengthened Toxic Substances Control Act. The rule will restrict the use of methylene chloride in paint strippers used by consumers but continue allowing it in products used for commercial purposes.

The decision to ban methylene chloride paint strippers for consumer use is largely a symbolic gesture, since most major retailers – including Lowe’s, Home Depot, Ace Hardware, Sherwin-Williams, Amazon and Walmart – have already pledged to remove products containing the chemical from their shelves, after public pressure from Safer Chemicals, Health Families.

Workers will continue to be at serious risk of injury or even death, noted EWG’s Legislative Attorney Melanie Benesh.

“Although it is important these deadly products will no longer put consumers at risk, Administrator Andrew Wheeler and the Trump administration will be partially responsible when the next worker is injured or dies as a result of being exposed to this dangerous chemical,” said Benesh. “Wheeler and his EPA had the authority and responsibility to protect all Americans from further exposure to methylene chloride but instead kowtowed to the narrow interests of the chemical industry.”

Public interest groups, including EWG, Environmental Defense Fund, the Natural Resources Defense Council and Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, have called on the EPA to ban both commercial and consumer uses of paint strippers that contain the chemical.

Inhalation of methylene chloride has been linked to more than 50 deaths. The EPA classifies it as a probable human carcinogen that is also toxic to the brain and liver.

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The Environmental Working Group is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization that empowers people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment. Through research, advocacy and unique education tools, EWG drives consumer choice and civic action.