EPA won’t reverse findings of danger from paint stripping chemical

EPA won’t reverse findings of danger from paint stripping chemical
© Greg Nash

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said Thursday that it won’t reverse an Obama administration report that enumerated various harms from exposure to paint-stripping chemical methylene chloride.

In a Thursday morning statement, the EPA stopped short of saying whether it will ban the chemical or certain uses of it.

But the announcement that the EPA “is not re-evaluating the paint stripping uses of methylene chloride and is relying on its previous risk assessments” is a welcome sign for environmental and health advocates who had suspected that the Trump administration would go soft on the substance.

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The EPA also announced that it plans to continue the regulatory process for methylene chloride started under former President Obama in 2016 and will send it to the White House Office of Management and Budget for final review “shortly.”

The announcement came days after EPA Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittSchwarzenegger: Pruitt is the worst EPA head 'we have ever had' Overnight Energy: Pruitt’s security cost .5m in first year | Watchdog clears Perry's use of military, charter flights Congress should invest in science at the EPA MORE met personally with Wendy Hartley and Cindy Wynne, whose sons are among the dozens of people who have died due to exposure to the solvent.

Hartley and Wynne said they were glad Pruitt agreed to meet with them, but disappointed that he did not make any commitments at the Monday meeting.

In the EPA’s semiannual regulatory agenda released in December, it did not commit to a timeline on a regulation for methylene chloride. Advocates took that as a sign that Pruitt wanted to abandon the effort.

But Pruitt told lawmakers at a hearing last month that he wasn’t dropping the issue.

“No decision has been made to deny that ban,” he said. “There will be a decision … I would imagine that is something we can do this year.”

Methylene chloride’s uses include stripping paint, degreasing and certain food production techniques.

If inhaled, it can cause symptoms ranging from dizziness, nausea and headaches to suffocation, coma and death.

Advocates for banning its use were pleased by the EPA’s announcement Thursday.

“Today’s announcement that EPA intends to finalize a ban on methylene chloride — a chemical so dangerous that it has killed dozens of people even when they were wearing protective gear — is welcome news, especially after the agency previously delayed finalization of this proposed ban indefinitely,” Sen. Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperHillicon Valley: Sweeping new data rules take effect | Facebook, Google already hit with complaints | Schumer slams reported ZTE deal | Senators look to save cyber post | Dem wants answers about Trump's phone security Senator asks Pentagon again for info on Trump's cellphone security Senate Dems to Mnuchin: Don't index capital gains to inflation MORE (Del.), the top Democrat on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said in a statement.

“We are encouraged that today EPA has decided to reverse course and move forward to finalize its proposed rule banning methylene chloride in these products,” said Sarah Vogel, vice president for health at the Environmental Defense Fund.

“We are also encouraged that EPA is not re-evaluating the paint stripping uses of methylene chloride and is relying on its previous risk assessments, which found very high risks to consumers and workers from these products.”