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The Environmental Protection Agency has proposed a ban on most uses of methylene chloride, a chemical they say is known to cause health risks and even death, to protect public health.

The proposal would ban methylene chloride’s use in all consumer situations, and in most industrial and commercial uses. Methylene chloride is used in aerosol degreasers, brush cleaners for paints and coatings, commercial adhesives and sealants, and to make other chemicals in industrial settings. 

The ban is proposed as part of the Toxic Substances Control Act, which gives the EPA the ability to require reporting, record-keeping and testing requirements, as well as other restrictions. The EPA banned one consumer use of methylene chloride in 2019, taking it out of paint removers

According to the EPA, at least 85 people have died from exposure to the chemical since 1980. Those cases mostly involve workers engaged in home renovation contracting work, the EPA said. There have also been “many more” cases of people experiencing severe and long-lasting health impacts after exposure to methylene chloride, the agency said. The EPA has also identified adverse health effects including neurotoxicity, liver effects and cancer from inhalation and skin exposure. 

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The agency determined that methylene chloride poses “unreasonable risk of injury to health under the conditions of use” because of these risks posed to workers in direct and indirect contact with the chemical, consumers who use it and those who are exposed to it. 

“The science on methylene chloride is clear, exposure can lead to severe health impacts and even death, a reality for far too many families who have lost loved ones due to acute poisoning,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan in a news release announcing the proposal. “That’s why EPA is taking action, proposing to ban most uses of this chemical and reduce exposures in all other scenarios by implementing more stringent workplace controls to protect worker health.” 

The goal of the proposed ban, the EPA said, is to protect people from risks and allow methylene chloride to only be used in strictly controlled workplace settings where exposure can be minimized. Manufacturing, processing and distribution of methylene chloride would be wound down within the next 15 months. In situations where the chemical will be prohibited under the proposal, an EPA analysis found that alternative products with “similar costs and efficacy … are generally available.” 

“This historic proposed ban demonstrates significant progress in our work to implement new chemical safety protections and take long-overdue actions to better protect public health,” Regan said.