The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing to place limits on the use of two common chemicals in paint removers in order to protect consumers and workers from serious health risks associated with this use. The chemicals are methylene chloride and N-methylpyrrolidone (NMP).
Under the new toxic chemicals law passed in June, EPA now has a legal mandate to restrict chemicals already in commerce that pose unreasonable risks to public health and the environment. There are many cases of people who have become ill or even died as a result of exposure to methylene chloride-containing paint removers. Today's action, when finalized, will save lives and protect people from other serious health risks, including cancer and developmental effects.
EPA, in a 2014 assessment, concluded that methylene chloride can cause a range of adverse health effects, including harm to the central nervous system, liver toxicity, and cancer. EPA is now proposing to prohibit manufacture (including import), processing, and distribution in commerce of methylene chloride when used as a paint remover, except for commercial furniture refinishing which the Agency will address in a separate proposal. EPA is also proposing to require manufacturers, processors, and distributors to notify retailers and others in their supply chains of the prohibitions.
EPA assessed NMP in 2015 and identified risks to people, particularly pregnant women and women of childbearing age, who have high exposure to NMP through paint or coating removal. EPA is inviting comments on two approaches to address the risks from NMP. One approach would prohibit manufacture (including import), processing, and distribution in commerce of NMP when used as a paint remover, as well as require various notification measures on the restrictions to downstream processors and users. The other approach would put in place a combination of requirements to address unreasonable risks, including limiting the amount of NMP in paint remover products, providing warning labels for consumers, and requiring workers to wear specialized gloves and other equipment. EPA is seeking comment on both approaches. In addition, EPA is proposing to exempt certain national security uses of methylene chloride and NMP from the requirements of this rule.