Industry calls EPA Proposal to Ban Bathtub Stripper a “Blatant and raw power grab”

Center for Public Inegrity

Seventeen workers dying between 2000 and 2015 isn’t enough to convince the methylene chloride industry that more is needed than just labels on a can to prevent the needless deaths of worker stripping bathtubs.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed ban of methylene chloride as a paint stripper is a “blatant and raw power grab” of authority that Congress gave the Consumer Product Safety Commission, according to an attorney representing the Halogenated Solvents Industry Alliance, Inc.(HSIA) , according to a story in Bloomberg BNA.   The Alliance includes companies that make products containing methylene chloride which has been blamed for numerous deaths of bathtub refinishers.

Confined Space reported last week about the death of 21 year old Kevin Hartley who died April 28 while using a stripper containing methylene chloride while stripping a bathtub. The Environmental Protection Agency has proposed to ban the chemical’s use as a paint stripper.

The industry is using the same old arguments that they use to object to every health and safety regulation issued by EPA or OSHA: the science isn’t good. (The solvents industry also denies that the chemical causes cancer,) “devastating” impacts to small businesses, astronomically higher costs (and lower benefits) than EPA estimated, and “” viable and effective regulatory alternatives, including enhanced labeling and consumer education and training requirements.”

A letter from W.M. Barr & Company, Inc. notes that small business manufacturers ” implored the agency not to move forward with a proposed rule that would require formulators to discontinue products that have been in use for generations in favor of alternative formulations that are less safe, or less effective and more expensive than the high-quality products we offer today.”

W. Caffey Norman, a partner in the Washington office of Squire Patton Boggs, which represents HSIA, argues that the EPA regulation would violate Section 9 of the Toxic Substances Control Act which “bars the EPA from regulating a chemical already sufficiently managed by another agency.”

Industry argues that not only does OSHA regulate Methylene Chloride, but “the Consumer Product Safety Commission voted June 2 to include stronger language on household products containing methylene chloride, so consumers would know the products can be deadly and shouldn’t be used in small, unventilated spaces.”  OSHA’s regulation sets a low limit of exposure, mainly because the chemical is known to cause cancer.

HSIA and the chemical industry argue that the CPSC labels should replace the EPA’s regulation. But CPSC disagrees, according to BNA.  A briefing package prepared by the commission staff stated that

“Any action taken by the CPSC would not replace the EPA’s rulemaking and instead, would be an interim measure until the EPA may issue a regulation,” the staff paper said.

TSCA gives the EPA the ability to address both occupational and consumer uses of methylene chloride, CPSC staff said. Thus, the EPA may address risks associated with the solvent and products containing it “in a more cohesive and coordinated manner,” it said.

The Environmental Defense Fund agrees that EPA needs to take strong and swift action:

Products containing these chemicals are available at hardware and other retail stores across the country, and unless EPA acts promptly to finalize a ban, there will surely be more avoidable deaths and other health impacts due to use of high-risk chemical paint strippers.  In EDF’s recent comments to EPA, we strongly urged it to finalize these bans as soon as possible to protect public health.  EPA should not wait for another reason to take action.

 This regulation will be one of the first tests of the Trump administration.  Will Trump’s EPA head Scott Pruitt sentence more young people to preventable death?

Chemical Standards Environmental Protection Agency Regulations and Standards

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