Methylene chloride ban announced by the EPA over cancer risks 

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced a ban on methylene chloride in products for most of its current uses, including as a paint stripper in both industrial and consumer contexts, due to concerns over the health risks of exposure to the chemical. 

Consumers often use methylene chloride for aerosol degreasing and as a cleaner for paint and coatings. Its commercial uses extend to adhesives and sealants, while in industrial settings, it serves as a precursor for manufacturing various chemicals, including more environmentally sustainable refrigerants.

Predominantly used in industrial settings for stripping paint from metal surfaces, the EPA’s decision has gained support from several workers’ organisations, including the United Steel Workers Union, due to its potential to safeguard workers from harmful substances.

David McCall, the union’s international president, emphasised the burden of occupational diseases, noting that over 100,000 workers fall ill annually due to exposure to hazardous chemicals like methylene chloride.

In announcing the ban, the EPA talked about the health risks linked to methylene chloride exposure, particularly with prolonged contact. Scientific research has recently indicated heightened risks of various cancers (liver, lung, breast, brain, blood, and central nervous system), neurotoxicity, liver damage, and other fatal outcomes

These risks have now prompted the agency’s decisive action to ban it altogether. While the EPA acknowledges certain exceptions to the ban, the overarching aim is to improve worker protection moving forward.

EPA Administrator Michael Regan said in a statement: “Exposure to methylene chloride has devastated families across this country for too long, including some who saw loved ones go to work and never come home. EPA’s final action brings an end to unsafe methylene chloride practices and implements the strongest worker protections possible for the few remaining industrial uses, ensuring no one in this country is put in harm’s way by this dangerous chemical.”

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