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EPA Bans Consumer Use of Paint Stripper03/18 08:21

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Environmental Protection Agency on Friday banned 
consumer use of a popular but deadly paint stripper but stopped short of also 
banning commercial use of the product by tradespeople.

   EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler signed the rule, which will bar manufacture 
and import of the stripper methylene chloride for consumer use, in a private 
meeting Friday with relatives of a man who died while using the paint stripper.

   The EPA cited "the acute fatalities that have resulted from exposure to the 
chemical" and an "unreasonable" risk to consumers. Retail stores have until 
later this year to remove the product from sale. Many big chains already 
stopped sale of products with methylene chloride in recent months, amid a 
campaign led by environmental groups and families of men overcome and killed by 
fumes from the paint stripper.

   Goopy, strong-smelling products containing methylene chloride have been a 
go-to product for do-it-yourselfers for decades. But fumes from the product can 
affect the central nervous system, sometimes causing dizziness, disorientation 
and death. The state of California says it has tracked at least five U.S. 
deaths from methylene chloride since 2014.

   The dead include a 21-year-old worker, Kevin Hartley, who had had training 
in use of the product, and Drew Wynne, a 31-year-old South Carolina man who was 
cleaning the floor of his start-up coffee company. Both died in 2017.

   Hartley's and Wynne's families had been among those pressing for the ban, 
which had been initiated by the Obama administration but then stalled by the 
Trump administration.

   Relatives of the dead men met last year with then-EPA chief Scott Pruitt and 
with lawmakers, pressing for prohibition of methylene chloride.

   The EPA declined Friday to immediately extend the ban to commercial uses of 
the paint stripper. Instead, it said it would consider whether to mandate 
training in use of methylene chloride, or go on to ban commercial use of the 
solvent as well.

   "I think that it's sad," said Yanira Merino, national president of the Labor 
Council for Latin American Advancement, which had pushed for the EPA to extend 
the ban to commercial use as well.

   Latino and Hispanic workers in general are among those most vulnerable to 
the solvent, often lacking access to safety training and to safety directions 
in a language they can understand, Merino said.

   "It's a sad time when you don't take into account the health of the people 
who work in a very important industry," Merino said.

   Another of the men killed while using the solvent, also in 2017, was an El 
Salvador laborer who spoke only limited English, his family told California 

   The Trump administration "will be partly to blame when the next worker is 
injured or dies as a result of being exposed to this extremely dangerous 
chemical," attorney Melanie Benesh of the Environmental Working Group said.

   The EPA was "catering to the wishes of the chemical industry," Benesh said. 

   The EPA under the Trump administration has been among the most active 
agencies in carrying out President Donald Trump's mission of rolling back 
regulations it sees as burdensome to business. The Trump administration 
especially targeted environmental protections associated with the Obama 
administration, repealing or weakening some Obama-era measures meant to slow 
climate change and lessen air and water pollution.

   Before Friday, environmental groups could point to just one other 
significant instance of the Trump EPA tightening, rather than loosening, 
environmental or public health protections --- a measure that could tighten 
nitrous oxide standards for heavy-duty truck engines, Anne Hawke of the Natural 
Resources Defense Council said. 


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