Methylene chloride found in popular paint removers has been banned for consumer use by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency following controversial deaths linked to its use.
The ban prohibits the manufacturing, import, processing, and distribution of the said toxic chemical in all paint strippers for consumer use.
A Final Ban
"After analyzing the health impacts and listening to affected families, EPA is taking action to stop the use of this chemical in paint removers intended for consumers," said Andrew Wheeler, administrator of the EPA.
EPA said the ban reflects the agency's commitment to ensuring that chemicals in the retail marketplace are safe for the American public.
However, the ban does not cover industries and workplace. It did not also include the banning of N-methylpyrrolidone or NMP, a common alternative to methylene chloride that can cause reproductive issues and birth defects.
In compliance with the EPA ruling, several hardware retailers and companies have announced their commitment to stop selling products containing methylene chloride.
Methylene chloride or dichloromethane is a colorless, nonflammable, and volatile liquid chlorinated hydrocarbon.
It has a strong but pleasant chloroform odor. It is commonly used as a solvent in paint removers, a solvent in the manufacture of pharmaceuticals, and as a degreasing and blowing agent for industrial use.
Methylene chloride in paint strippers can be inhaled and can also be absorbed by the skin. Inhalation of this chemical can cause instant dizziness, loss of consciousness, and irritation of the nose and throat.
Acute exposure can cause death due to nervous system depression. A tablespoon full of this lethal chemical is enough to kill a person. It is considered toxic both by health and consumer experts.
The EPA first proposed a federal ban on methylene chloride for commercial and consumer use in January 2017 but President Donald Trump excluded the workplace use in the final ban. The chemical has been banned in Europe since 2012.
Groups demanded a full ban on the chemical saying the EPA ruling leaves workers blatantly exposed to deadly chemicals.
"The methylene chloride rule sends a clear message to workers that their lives matter less than chemical industry profits," said Jonathan Kalmuss-Katz, a staff attorney at Earthjustice.
Cause Of Deaths
The chemical has been implicated in the deaths of several people. Since the 1980s, at least 64 people have died due to acute exposure to methylene chloride including the death of four Michigan residents according to environmental health organization Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families.
In October 2017, small business owner Drew Wayne from South Carolina died after he had been overcome by vapors of methylene chloride in Goof Off paint stripper manufactured by W.M. Barr.
Then-31-year-old Wayne was resurfacing the floor of a walk-in refrigerator when he inhaled the toxic chemical.