The Environmental Protection Agency is proposing to ban most uses of methylene chloride, a solvent in adhesives, paints and coating products known to cause serious health risks and even death.
“The science on methylene chloride is clear, exposure can have serious health effects and even death, a reality for too many families who have lost loved ones to acute poisoning,” said the EPA administrator, Michael Regan, in a statement Thursday.
The agency says at least 85 people have died since 1980 from acute exposure to the “hazardous chemical,” including killing some people “trained and equipped with personal protective equipment.”
“That is why the EPA is taking action, proposing to ban most uses of this chemical and reduce exposure in all other scenarios by implementing more stringent controls in the workplace to protect the health of workers. Regan continued.
“This historic ban proposal demonstrates significant progress in our work to implement new chemical safety protections and take long-overdue steps to better protect public health.”
Even after the EPA banned the use of methylene chloride in consumer paint removal products in 2019, the chemical can still be found in industrial, commercial, and consumer settings.
Dichloromethane is found in spray degreasers, paint and coating brush cleaners, adhesives, and sealants.
The neurotoxic fluid, which is colorless and volatile, has been linked to eye, skin, liver and heart problems. Symptoms include dizziness, nausea, drowsiness and numbness or tingling in the extremities, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The agency says the chemical can also cause certain types of cancer.
The EPA submitted its proposal Thursday under the Toxic Substances Control Act, a law that took effect in 1976.
The proposed ban would phase out the manufacturing, processing, and distribution of methylene chloride for all consumer uses and most industrial and commercial uses within 15 months. Effective and similarly priced alternatives are available, the agency said.
In scenarios where the use of methylene chloride would not be prohibited, the EPA is proposing a workplace chemical protection program with “strict exposure limits to better protect workers.”
NASA, the Department of Defense and the Federal Aviation Administration could continue to use the chemical.
Wendy Hartley’s son Kevin died in 2017 after inhaling methylene chloride while repairing a bathtub. The Tennessee mom is applauding the EPA for the proposed ban.
“No mother should have to face that,” she said in the EPA statement about her son’s untimely death. “The EPA is proposing to ban commercial use of it as a bathroom cleaner once and for all, and I urge the agency to quickly finalize the rule and ensure that no other mother has to go through what I went through.”