WASHINGTON, D.C. – Yesterday, Senators Tom Carper (D-Del.), top Democrat on the Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW) and Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), sent a letter to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler demanding EPA immediately finalize its proposed ban of methylene chloride, a hazardous chemical found primarily in paint strippers that has for years posed grave and deadly risks to unsuspecting users. Since the EPA in May acknowledged the dangers of methylene chloride in a plan to ban the product from store shelves and online, the agency has been slow-walking the process and endangering people who may have no clue just how dangerous this chemical really is—until they’ve been exposed, sickened or worse. While some stores have phased out or have committed to voluntarily remove the methylene chloride product from shelves, it is still sold by a number of American retailers including Walmart, Menards and Ace Hardware. The senators released the following statements commenting on EPA’s inaction:
“In May of this year, I welcomed EPA’s announcement that it intended to finalize a ban on methylene chloride. But seven months have come and gone and a ban has yet to be finalized on a chemical so dangerous that it is killing unsuspecting Americans who pick it up at the hardware store,” said Senator Carper. “Congress passed TSCA reform in 2016 with overwhelming bipartisan and stakeholder support. Despite that clear and definitive mandate, the Trump Administration cannot even manage to finalize the ban of a chemical so harmful to human health that stores have voluntarily taken it off their shelves. There is absolutely no excuse for this delay.”
“It is shocking to think that a chemical and product that has made people really sick, even caused deaths, is available for sale in everyday stores and online while the federal government sits back and presses pause on a plan to remove it from the marketplace,” said Senator Schumer. “That is why I am sounding the alarm today for all DIY-types across Long Island who have the know-how to get everyday home improvement projects done, but might not know the risk they’re taking when opening the can and breathing in the fumes. And with winter on the way, and more indoor projects being undertaken, now is the time to bluntly ask the feds to do their job and implement the methylene chloride ban that is already in place and ready to go. Whether you acquire a methylene chloride product from a Long Island shelf or an internet signal, one thing’s for sure: it’s dangerous, the feds know it, and it should be removed from the marketplace. DIY should not have to risk RIP.”
In 2014, the EPA addressed the paint stripping uses in its risk assessment. In January 2017, the EPA proposed a ban on the chemical under the Toxic Substances and Control Act (TSCA), which would prohibit the consumer and commercial paint stripping uses for methylene chloride. In May 2018, EPA announced its plans to finalize the ban. However, seven months later, no such ban has been finalized and the chemical is still available at a number of hardware stores. To date, the EPA has not taken sufficient action against this dangerous and deadly chemical and has only reported that it is working to finalize the methylene chloride rulemaking ‘shortly.’
Methylene chloride is a chemical often found in paint strippers/thinners, polyurethane foam manufacturing, and in cleaning and degreasing work activities. The chemical is known to reduce blood’s oxygen carrying capacity, thus affecting the brain and nervous system’s function which can result in asphyxiation and/or heart attack. People exposed to methylene chloride can present symptoms including dizziness, headache, and/or nausea. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), “employees exposed to methylene chloride are at increased risk of developing cancer, adverse effects on the heart, central nervous system and liver, and skin or eye irritation.” A full list of brands that contain methylene chloride can be found HERE.
A copy of the letter can be found HERE, and the full text of the letter is below:
December 17, 2018
The Honorable Andrew Wheeler
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
1301 Constitution Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20460
Dear Acting Administrator Wheeler:
We write to demand that you expeditiously move to ban methylene chloride, a dangerous chemical found in paint strippers. Methylene chloride has killed dozens of people even when they were wearing protective gear and following recommended safety precautions.
Following the 2016 enactment of reforms to the Toxic Substances and Control Act (TSCA), EPA proposed bans on some uses of three chemicals under the new law, including methylene chloride. In early May 2018, former Administrator Pruitt announced that he would finalize the methylene chloride ban. However, more than seven months later, this dangerous chemical remains on the market.
We are extremely troubled by the manner in which the new TSCA law, which was enacted with a near-unanimous vote and with the support of a wide range of stakeholders, has been implemented by the Trump Administration thus far. Any further delay in finalizing this ban could jeopardize human health and the environment and undermine the efficacy of the bipartisan law passed by the Congress.
We urge you in the strongest possible terms to finally act to ban this chemical before any more lives are lost.