Groups threaten to sue EPA for not banning paint stripper chemical

Groups threaten to sue EPA for not banning paint stripper chemical
© Getty

A coalition of organizations is formally threatening to sue the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for not banning a toxic chemical used in paint strippers.

Safer Chemicals Healthy Families, Labor Council for Latin American Advancement and Earthjustice said Wednesday that the EPA is obligated to ban the use of methylene chloride, but it has not yet taken action to do so.

The EPA proposed a ban in January 2017, under former President Obama. And while former EPA head Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittOVERNIGHT ENERGY: House Democrats chart course to 'solving the climate crisis' by 2050 | Commerce Department led 'flawed process' on Sharpiegate, watchdog finds | EPA to end policy suspending pollution monitoring by end of summer Watchdog: EPA hasn't provided 'sufficient justification' for decision not to recover Pruitt travel spending OVERNIGHT ENERGY: DOJ whistleblower says California emissions probe was 'abuse of authority' | EPA won't defend policy blocking grantees from serving on boards | Minnesota sues Exxon, others over climate change MORE promised to move forward with the ban earlier this year, the agency has not released a final version of the regulation.

ADVERTISEMENT

In the meantime, eight major home improvement and auto parts retailers have taken their own actions to stop selling products containing methylene chloride.

“Since EPA proposed its methylene chloride ban, four American families have lost loved ones. In light of the Trump EPA’s continued failure to act, retailers are stepping up and taking action to protect their customers from this dangerous chemical,” Liz Hitchcock, director of Safer Chemicals Healthy Families, said in a statement. “EPA must follow the home improvement industry’s lead and ban these deadly paint removers from store shelves and workplaces nationwide.”

EPA spokeswoman Molly Block said the agency would "continue to work towards a solution" on methylene chloride.

"EPA is currently evaluating the proposal and regulation of this substance and its uses to determine the appropriate regulation — and its legal defensibility," she said in a statement.

After the EPA didn’t take any visible action on methylene chloride, Pruitt met in May with families of victims of the chemical.

Following that meeting, EPA released a statement saying it would move forward with the ban, and Pruitt confirmed his intent to do so at a congressional hearing later that month.

Methylene chloride can cause asphyxiation, heart failure and death, while long-term exposure to small amounts can increase cancer risks.

The parties threatening to sue include two women whose sons have recently died from exposure to the compound.

The groups are bringing their action under the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act. The law requires them to submit notice 60 days before filing an actual lawsuit.