NRDC, Partners Sue EPA Over Toxic Chemical Risks

WASHINGTON – NRDC (the Natural Resources Defense Council) together with partners, today asked a federal court to review the Environmental Protection Agency’s woefully inadequate process for evaluating risks of the toxic chemical methylene chloride.  A solvent used in paint strippers and other products, methylene chloride has already been linked to some 60 deaths, at least 4 of which occurred after the EPA refused to finalize a ban on its use in paint strippers.                                                         

“This is the agency’s very first risk evaluation under the updated federal toxics law and it sets the stage for future limits on this deadly chemical,” said Selena Kyle, senior attorney and managing litigator for NRDC. “But the agency has underestimated the risks to people exposed to methylene chloride on the job, and all but ignored risks to people who live near facilities that release it into the air, water, and soil. When EPA moves forward to regulate the chemical, it must consider these risks.”

In filing its petition for review together with Chicago-based Neighbors for Environmental Justice, the New Jersey Work Environment Council, Earthjustice, Sierra Club, and the United Steelworkers, NRDC is asking the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to review EPA’s final risk evaluation for assessing the dangers of methylene chloride, issued last month. The groups contend that the agency’s process ignores and underestimates the risks of exposures to the chemical.

“Under Nancy Beck, the Trump administration’s ‘toxics czar,’ EPA risk evaluations don’t comply with the law, and they don’t protect the public. In addition, she has delayed and refused to finalize bans on methylene chloride in paint strippers, leaving thousands of workers and bystanders at risk,” said Daniel Rosenberg, director of federal toxics policy and senior attorney for NRDC. “With Beck now up for chair of the Consumer Products Safety Commission, we will fight her nomination, just as we’re fighting EPA’s failures in protecting people from dangerous chemicals.”


The federal law on chemical safety, the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), was updated through amendments in 2016.  It requires EPA to evaluate hazardous chemicals and determine whether each one presents an unreasonable risk of injury to health or the environment under the conditions of that chemical’s use.

Methylene chloride is one of the first 10 chemicals EPA selected to evaluate under TSCA, and the first chemical for which EPA has completed its risk evaluation.  It is a solvent produced for industrial, commercial and consumer uses, and has been associated with serious health impacts, including death, liver toxicity and cancer. 

NRDC and partners sued the EPA in 2017 over its “framework rules” for TSCA risk evaluations.  Last November, a federal appeals court ruled that EPA could not ignore harmful exposures to chemicals still in use but no longer manufactured, and that the agency’s own rules do not give it discretion to pick and choose between evaluating some uses of a chemical and not others.

In March 2019, after a lawsuit by NRDC and other organizations, EPA issued a partial ban on methylene chloride with respect to consumer use in paint strippers, but it failed to ban commercial use.

A copy of the petition is available upon request.

Here is a blog by senior attorney and director of NRDC’s federal toxics policy, Daniel Rosenberg.

For more on Nancy Beck’s legacy of stalling and blocking protections against toxic chemicals, see these NRDC blogs:

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NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, and Beijing. Visit us at and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.

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