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On 20 April 2023, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a proposal to ban all consumer uses of methylene chloride, eliminate all non-essential industrial and commercial uses, and set tight occupational exposure requirements for the remaining uses of methylene chloride. This proposal follows the earlier determination that methylene chloride poses an unreasonable risk of injury to health. The proposal will be published in the Federal Register shortly, with a 60-day comment period to follow.
Methylene chloride (CAS RN 75-09-2) is a high production volume chemical used as a solvent in many industrial, commercial, and consumer applications such as vapor degreasing, paints, coatings, and automotive products. Methylene chloride is one of the first ten chemicals to undergo risk evaluation under the new provisions for risk evaluation under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). The EPA’s final risk determination, which does not assume the use of personal protective equipment, concludes that 52 of 53 existing uses pose unreasonable risks. The proposed risk management measures will protect exposed individuals from acute effects, such as central nervous system depression, and chronic effects, such as liver toxicity and cancer. The EPA’s 2019 TSCA Section 6 rulemaking would be expanded from bans on consumer paint and coating removal to eliminate all consumer uses of methylene chloride.
The rule prohibits all manufacturing (including import), processing, distribution, and use in consumer products except paint and coating removal, which was addressed in the 2019 rule. The rule also bans all manufacturing (including import), processing, and distribution of methylene chloride for industrial or commercial use except the following, which are subject to Workplace Chemical Protection Plan (WCPP) requirements:
- Manufacturing and import
- Processing as a reactant, incorporation into a formulation, mixture, or reaction product, and repackaging or recycling
- Industrial or commercial use as a laboratory chemical
- Industrial or commercial use as a bonding agent for acrylic and polycarbonate in mission-critical military and space applications
- Industrial or commercial use for paint and coating removal from safety-critical, corrosion-sensitive components of aircraft and spacecraft that are owned or operated by specified agencies
- Industrial or commercial use for paint and coating removal from safety-critical, corrosion-sensitive components of other aircraft and spacecraft for 10 years
The WCPP is intended to be as consistent as possible with the current Occupational Safety and Health Administration standard for methylene chloride. However, it has additional requirements to address the identified unreasonable risks. The rule requires consideration of the hierarchy of controls, establishes an existing chemical exposure limit (ECEL) of 2 parts per million (ppm) as an 8-hour time-weighted average, an action level of 1 ppm, and a short-term exposure limit of 16 ppm, requires chemical resistant gloves, specific activity training, and specified respirator requirements when engineering controls do not meet the exposure limits. The WCPP would apply to all remaining uses and begin to take effect 180 days after the final rule with the implementation of exposure controls in one year.
Product bans would take effect in stages through the supply chain with manufacturing bans at 90 days after the final rule is published, 180 days for processors, 270 days for distributors to retailers, 360 days for all other distributors and retailers, and 450 days for industrial and commercial uses. The EPA is seeking comment on the established de minimis limit for impurities.
The rule also makes changes to the current downstream user notification requirements and requires a specified statement outlining the prohibitions and effective dates in Section 15 of the safety data sheet.
Interested parties can review the information and submit comments on this notice through the Federal eRulemaking Portal using docket identification (ID) number EPA-HQ-OPPT-2020-0465. Comments are due by 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.
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