The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has now announced a ban on any future sales of products containing the chemical methylene chloride that are for household use.
Methylene chloride is a powerful paint stripper. According to the CDC, it can, in particular after repeated exposure, cause a range of health problems, from headaches and dizziness to a build-up of fluid in the lungs.
The agency warned that these risks can, in some cases, lead to “acute fatalities that have resulted from exposure to the chemical”. It’s now believed that at least 64 deaths have been caused by exposure.
In light of this, many major retailers in the US have, in accordance with the ban, removed products containing methylene chloride from sale in their stores.
However, the ban doesn’t apply to products that are used for commercial purposes – it’s often used in plastic processing, for example. Whether the ban should be extended or not is still under review.
The EPA noted in a statement: “If we determine that the risks to users of this chemical for paint and coating removal in the workplace cannot be managed, then EPA would make a legal finding again under the statute and make the appropriate risk management decision which could be banning it or restricting its use in some way.”
The decision not to apply the ban to commercial use has been criticised by a number of health campaign groups. Some have accused the EPA of putting the public at risk by “catering to the wishes of the chemical industry.”
The EPA said: “While EPA proposed a determination of unreasonable risk from the use of methylene chloride in commercial paint and coating removal, EPA is not finalising that determination in this rule”. It continued by adding that “a future rulemaking that could establish a training, certification, and limited access programme for methylene chloride for commercial uses”.