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May 4, 2023

EPA Proposes to Prohibit Most Uses of Methylene Chloride under TSCA Section 6(a)

Lynn L. Bergeson Carla N. Hutton

On May 3, 2023, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed to prohibit most uses of methylene chloride under Section 6(a) of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). 88 Fed. Reg. 28284. EPA states in its April 20, 2023, press release that its unreasonable risk determination for methylene chloride was driven by risks associated with workers, occupational non-users (ONU), consumers, and those in close proximity to a consumer use. EPA identified risks for adverse human health effects, including neurotoxicity, liver effects, and cancer from inhalation and dermal exposures to methylene chloride. According to EPA, its proposed risk management rule would “rapidly phase down” manufacturing, processing, and distribution of methylene chloride for all consumer uses and most industrial and commercial uses, most of which would be fully implemented in 15 months. EPA notes that for most of the uses of methylene chloride that it proposes to prohibit, its analysis found that alternative products with similar costs and efficacy to methylene chloride products are generally available. Comments on the proposed rule are due July 3, 2023. EPA notes that under the Paperwork Reduction Act, “comments on the information collection provisions are best assured of consideration if the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) receives a copy of your comments on or before June 2, 2023.”
According to the proposed rule, pursuant to TSCA Section 6(b), EPA determined that methylene chloride presents an unreasonable risk of injury to health, without consideration of costs or other non-risk factors, including an unreasonable risk to potentially exposed or susceptible subpopulations identified as relevant to the 2020 methylene chloride risk evaluation, under the conditions of use (COU). To address the unreasonable risk, EPA proposes, under TSCA Section 6(a), to:

  • Prohibit the manufacture, processing, and distribution of methylene chloride for all consumer use;
  • Prohibit most industrial and commercial use of methylene chloride;
  • Require a workplace chemical protection program (WCPP), including inhalation exposure concentration limits and related workplace exposure monitoring and exposure controls, for ten COU of methylene chloride (including manufacture; processing as a reactant; laboratory use; industrial or commercial use in aerospace and military paint and coating removal from safety-critical, corrosion-sensitive components by federal agencies and their contractors; industrial or commercial use as a bonding agent for acrylic and polycarbonate in mission-critical military and space vehicle applications, including in the production of specialty batteries for such by federal agencies and their contractors; and disposal);
  • Require recordkeeping and downstream notification requirements for manufacturing, processing, and distribution in commerce of methylene chloride;
  • Provide a ten-year time-limited exemption under TSCA Section 6(g) for civilian aviation from the prohibition addressing the use of methylene chloride for paint and coating removal to avoid significant disruptions to critical infrastructure, with conditions for this exemption to include compliance with the WCPP; and
  • Provide a ten-year time-limited exemption under TSCA Section 6(g) for emergency use of methylene chloride in furtherance of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s mission for specific conditions which are critical or essential and for which no technically and economically feasible safer alternative is available, with conditions for this exemption to include compliance with the WCPP.

More information on EPA’s proposed rule is available in our April 25, 2023, memorandum.