White House, EPA retreat on paint stripper protections

photoImage by Michal Jarmoluk from Pixabay

The Trump administration has announced it will allow methylene chloride, a dangerous chemical that can kill a person on contact, to remain in paint-stripper products for commercial use. The decision is a significant retreat from a ban on the chemical for both commercial and consumer use proposed two years ago by the Environmental Protection Agency.

“The Trump administration will be partly to blame when the next worker is injured or dies as a result of being exposed to this extremely dangerous chemical,” said Environmental Working Group Legislative Attorney Melanie Benesh. “Administrator Andrew Wheeler and his EPA should use their authority under the revamped toxics law to protect all Americans from further exposure to methylene chloride. Instead they are catering to the wishes of the chemical industry.”

Public interest groups, including EWG, Environmental Defense Fund, the Natural Resources Defense Council and Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, have called on the EPA to ban both commercial and consumer uses of paint strippers that contain the chemical. Under pressure from Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, some major retailers, including Lowe’s, Home Depot, Ace Hardware, Sherwin-Williams, Amazon and Walmart, have pledged to remove products containing the chemical from their shelves.

Inhalation of methylene chloride has been linked to more than 50 deaths. The EPA classifies it as a probable human carcinogen that is also toxic to the brain and liver.