Neighbors for Environmental Justice, et al. v. EPA, et al. (Methylene Chloride)

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In a matter of minutes, methylene chloride—a hazardous chemical found in paint strippers—could turn a home project into a tragedy. Its noxious fumes can cause asphyxiation and even trigger heart attacks. It’s harmful to the nervous system, toxic to the liver, and linked to cancers.

But in June 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a final risk evaluation for methylene chloride that was a far cry from the comprehensive study mandated by the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). The EPA failed to account for risks to human health as a result of chemical releases into air, water, and soil; failed to account adequately for vulnerable subpopulations; and grossly understated risks to workers in high-exposure settings, among other omissions that have serious consequences. These errors mean that EPA will not take regulatory action under TSCA to protect many of the people who are most likely to be exposed at potentially harmful levels.

NRDC joined Neighbors For Environmental Justice; New Jersey Work Environment Council; Sierra Club; and United Steel, Paper and Forestry, Rubber, Manufacturing, Energy, Allied Industrial and Service Workers International Union, AFL-CIO to ask a court to order EPA to redo the risk evaluation to account for the full range of exposures and their consequences—particularly for workers and people who live near facilities using or storing methylene chloride.

EPA is reviewing its risk determination in response to this lawsuit and in July 2022, the agency released a draft revised risk evaluation finding that methylene chloride, under its conditions of use, presents an unreasonable risk of injury to health.

NRDC will follow these developments closely, including opportunities for public comment, and continue to push the EPA to do its job to protect communities and consumers.

(In another case filed in 2019, NRDC, Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, Earthjustice, Safer Chemicals Healthy Families, and Vermont Public Interest Research Group joined with two mothers, whose sons were tragically killed by acute exposure to methylene chloride, to challenge the EPA in court for failing to end the commercial sale and use of methylene chloride–based paint strippers. In response to that lawsuit, EPA has said it will work to ban methylene chloride as an ingredient in paint strippers.)

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