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1) Apr 20 -- EPA Proposes Ban on All Consumer, Most Industrial and Commercial Uses of Methylene Chloride to Protect Public Health [press release]

Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the latest action to protect public health under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), proposing a ban on most uses of methylene chloride, a dangerous chemical known to cause serious health risks and even death. Today’s proposal would protect people from these risks while allowing for some uses to continue only where strict workplace controls could be implemented to minimize exposures to workers. Methylene chloride is the second chemical to undergo risk management under the reformed process created by the 2016 Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, following agency proposed actions to protect people from asbestos exposure last year. . . .

Since 1980, at least 85 people have died from acute exposure to methylene chloride, largely workers engaged in home renovation contracting work and even, in some cases, while fully trained and equipped with personal protective equipment. Many more have experienced severe and long-lasting health impacts, including certain cancers. Still, use of methylene chloride has remained widespread, even after EPA banned one consumer use in 2019. Methylene chloride is used in a variety of ways including consumer uses such as aerosol degreasers and brush cleaners for paints and coatings, commercial applications such as adhesives and sealants, and in industrial settings for making other chemicals. For example, methylene chloride is used as a chemical intermediate in the production of hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) 32, which is used in refrigerant blends developed to replace substances with higher global warming potential. . . .

EPA’s unreasonable risk determination for methylene chloride was driven by risks associated with workers, occupational non-users (workers nearby but not in direct contact with this chemical), consumers and those in close proximity to a consumer use. EPA identified risks for adverse human health effects, including neurotoxicity, liver effects, and cancer from inhalation and dermal exposures to methylene chloride.

EPA’s proposed risk management rule would rapidly phase down manufacturing, processing and distribution of methylene chloride for all consumer uses and most industrial and commercial uses, most of which would be fully implemented in 15 months. For most of the uses of methylene chloride that EPA is proposing to prohibit, EPA’s analysis found that alternative products with similar costs and efficacy to methylene chloride products are generally available. . . .

For the industrial manufacturing, industrial processing, and federal uses that EPA is not proposing to prohibit, EPA is proposing a workplace chemical protection program with strict exposure limits to better protect workers. EPA has received data from industry that indicate some facilities may already be meeting the stronger proposed methylene chloride exposure limits. These proposed requirements would allow the continued processing of methylene chloride to produce chemicals that are important in efforts to reduce global warming outlined in the American Innovation and Manufacturing Act. Climate-friendly refrigerants and other chemicals play a significant role in combatting climate change and EPA’s proposed rule supports continued efforts to reduce emissions.

Similarly, EPA is also proposing that specific uses of methylene chloride required by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the Department of Defense, and the Federal Aviation Administration could continue with strict workplace controls because sufficient reductions in exposure are possible in these highly sophisticated environments, thereby minimizing risks to workers.

The proposed prohibitions and restrictions would also protect communities from methylene chloride exposure. EPA identified potential risks to fenceline communities from a small number of facilities using six years of Toxics Release Inventory exposure data. The prohibitions in EPA’s proposed rule would cover ongoing uses of methylene chloride at a majority of these facilities, effectively eliminating the potential risks to the neighboring communities.

EPA consulted with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) while developing this proposed rule and was mindful of existing OSHA requirements in building out the proposed worker protections. EPA’s proposed risk-based limits are based on recent data and meet the TSCA requirement to eliminate the unreasonable risk. Employers would have one year after the finalization of the risk management rule to comply with the worker chemical protection plan and would be required to periodically monitor their workplace to ensure that workers are not being exposed to levels of methylene chloride that would lead to an unreasonable risk.

EPA encourages members of the public to read and comment on the proposed rule. EPA is especially interested in hearing perspective on the feasibility and efficacy of the proposed requirement for worker protections from entities that would be required to implement the proposed program. In the coming weeks, EPA will host a public webinar targeted to employers and workers, but useful for anyone looking for an overview of the proposed regulatory action to discuss the proposed program. The date, time and registration information will be announced soon.

EPA will accept public comments on the proposed rule for methylene chloride for 60 days following publication in the Federal Register via docket EPA-HQ-OPPT-2020-0465 at www.regulations.gov.
Risk Management for Methylene Chloride https://www.epa.gov/assessing-and-managing-chemicals-under-tsca/risk-management-methylene-chloride
Proposed rule: https://www.federalregister.gov/d/2023-09184
Press release: https://www.epa.gov/newsreleases/epa-proposes-ban-all-consumer-most-industrial-and-commercial-uses-methylene-chloride   
2) May 3 -- FRN: Methylene Chloride; Regulation Under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA)

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing to address the unreasonable risk of injury to human health presented by methylene chloride under its conditions of use as documented in EPA's June 2020 Risk Evaluation for Methylene Chloride and November 2022 revised risk determination for methylene chloride prepared under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). TSCA requires that EPA address by rule any unreasonable risk of injury to health or the environment identified in a TSCA risk evaluation and apply requirements to the extent necessary so that the chemical no longer presents unreasonable risk. Methylene chloride, also known as dichloromethane, is acutely lethal, a neurotoxicant, a likely human carcinogen, and presents cancer and non-cancer risks following chronic exposures as well as acute risks. Central nervous system depressant effects can result in loss of consciousness and respiratory depression, resulting in irreversible coma, hypoxia, and eventual death, including 85 documented fatalities from 1980 to 2018, a majority of which were occupational fatalities (see Unit II.A.). Nevertheless, methylene chloride is still a widely used solvent in a variety of consumer and commercial applications including adhesives and sealants, automotive products, and paint and coating removers. To address the identified unreasonable risk, EPA is proposing to: prohibit the manufacture, processing, and distribution in commerce of methylene chloride for consumer use; prohibit most industrial and commercial uses of methylene chloride; require a workplace chemical protection program (WCPP), which would include a requirement to meet inhalation exposure concentration limits and exposure monitoring for certain continued conditions of use of methylene chloride; require recordkeeping and downstream notification requirements for several conditions of use of methylene chloride; and provide certain time-limited exemptions from requirements for uses of methylene chloride that would otherwise significantly disrupt national security and critical infrastructure.

Comments must be received on or before July 3, 2023.
FRN: https://www.federalregister.gov/d/2023-09184 [63 pages]

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