EPA bans most uses of cancer-causing chemical used as paint stripper

April 30, 2024

The Biden administration on Tuesday banned most uses of a toxic chemical that is used as a paint stripper. 

Long-term exposure to the chemical, methylene chloride, can cause cancers of the liver, lung, breast, brain, blood and central nervous system.

It has also caused at least 88 deaths from short-term exposure since 1980, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

It has been used in a variety of ways, including in adhesives, automotive products and paint and coating removers.

In addition to the ban on many uses, the agency is also adding new workplace safety requirements where methylene chloride will still be used.

“Exposure to methylene chloride has devastated families across this country for too long,” EPA Administrator Michael Regan said in a written statement. 

He added that the agency’s latest 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.”

All consumer uses of methylene chloride will be barred, as will most industrial uses, but it will still be allowed to be used in producing other chemicals, producing electric vehicle battery components, and in plastic and rubber manufacturing. 

These uses will continue with restrictions including worker exposure limits, monitoring requirements and employee training requirements. 

This rule is among the first actions taken by the EPA under a 2016 revamp of a chemical control law that gave it additional authority to review chemicals that are already on the marketplace. 

It also comes as one of several actions recently taken by the Biden administration to reduce Americans’ exposure to toxic substances. The administration has also set new rules for industrial toxic emissions and limits for  “forever chemicals” in drinking water