EPA Identifies Health Concern with Paint Stripper Chemical

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released final risk assessments in late August for three chemicals found in specific household products. The assessments were done for Dichloromethane (DCM), antimony trioxide (ATO), and 1,3,4,6,7,8-Hexahydro-4,6,6,7,8,8,-hexamethylcyclopenta-[ã]-2-benzopyran (HHCB) and focused on specific uses of the three chemicals as found in household products.  The assessment for DCM identified health risks to both workers and consumers who use these products, and also to bystanders in workplaces and residences where DCM is used.

DCM is widely found in paint stripping products and the EPA estimates that more than 230,000 workers in the U.S. are directly exposed to DCM from paint strippers. At this time for DCM, the EPA is “considering a range of possible voluntary and regulatory actions to address concerns and anticipates conducting a workshop in late fall to engage key stakeholders and the public on potential alternatives and risk reduction approaches”.  Until these actions are taken, the EPA recommends checking paint stripper labels for DCM or Methylene Chloride. If you are using a product that contains this chemical, the EPA recommends taking precautions including using the product outside and wearing protective equipment.

“While EPA continues to support much needed reform of this country’s chemicals management legislation, we are also using our current authorities as effectively as we can, which includes conducting risk assessments on chemicals to determine if they are safe for the public,” said Jim Jones, Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. “Our review indicates that the use of DCM in paint strippers pose risks to human health, so EPA is beginning an effort to determine options for addressing the concern.”

The EPA did not find any health concerns with the ATO, used as a synergist in halogenated flame retardants, or with the HHCB, used as a fragrance ingredient in commercial and consumer products. The three assessments were developed as part of the EPA’s Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Work Plan.

Currently, the EPA is evaluating an additional chemical in paint strippers called N-Methylpyrrolidone (NMP). The draft assessment has identified risks associated with the use of NMP-containing paint strippers.

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