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EPA Faces Legal Action for Delay in Toxic Chemical Ban

Some major retailers no longer sell methylene chloride paint strippers, but they remain widely available. (Photo: USDA)
Some major retailers no longer sell methylene chloride paint strippers, but they remain widely available. (Photo: USDA)
November 1, 2018

HARRISBURG, Pa. – The Environmental Protection Agency has been put on notice that it faces a lawsuit for delaying the finalization of a ban on methylene chloride, a toxic chemical used in paint stripping products.

On Wednesday, Latino workers, environmental and public health advocates filed the required 60-day notice that they will be filing a lawsuit.

At least four people have died from exposure to the chemical since EPA proposed the ban in 2017.

The agency announced back in May that it was finalizing the rulemaking for methylene chloride under the Toxic Substances Control Act.

But according to Jonathan Kalmuss-Katz, an attorney with the environmental law firm Earthjustice, there's been no further action since then.

"It's a chemical that EPA acknowledges has killed multiple people and will continue to result in cancer and death until it is taken off our shelves," he stresses.

The EPA says it is working diligently to implement amendments to the Toxic Substances Control Act, ensure the safety of existing chemicals and get safe chemicals to market.

But Kalmuss-Katz says the EPA claimed months ago that it forwarded the ban to the Office of Management and Budget for finalization.

"That turned out not to have been true,” he states. “So, their delay is unexplained and it's unlawful."

Eight major American retailers have banned paint strippers containing methylene chloride from their stores nationwide.

But Kalmuss-Katz notes that products containing the toxic chemical are still being sold, and Latino workers are disproportionately at risk of exposure.

"They are overrepresented in the construction trades where those paint strippers are used, and they are less likely to speak English as a first language and to fully understand the restrictions and usage instructions that may be on a package," he stresses.

Those announcing their intent to sue the EPA include the mothers of two young men who recently died from exposure to methylene chloride.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - PA