On April 20, 2023, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed a rule seriously restricting the manufacture, processing, and distribution in commerce of methylene chloride. EPA is exercising its authority under Section 6(a) of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), which allows the agency to impose such prohibitions on chemical substances that it determines, following a risk evaluation, to present an unreasonable risk of injury to health or the environment. Methylene chloride is most commonly used as a solvent in adhesives and sealants, automotive products, and paint and coating removers, and this rule could affect, among others, the automotive, pharmaceutical, and chemical manufacturing sectors.
EPA’s proposal would prohibit consumer uses and also restrict most industrial and commercial uses of methylene chloride. The proposal includes exceptions, most notably for the civil aviation sector’s use for paint and coating removal for 10 years to avoid significant disruption of national security and critical infrastructure. EPA would also extend this exemption to emergency use of methylene chloride at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) for specific critical or essential conditions where no technically or economically feasible safer alternatives are available.
The agency’s proposal would also allow methylene chloride’s use for production of hydrofluorocarbon-32 (HFC-32), a substance likely to be used to facilitate the transition from other hydrofluorocarbons with allegedly higher global warming potentials, which would support EPA’s work to reduce hydrofluorocarbons under the American Innovation and Manufacturing Act of 2020. However, the agency would require the civil aviation sector, NASA, and manufacturers of HFC-32 to follow a workplace chemical protection program for their use of methylene chloride, which would include a requirement relating to inhalation exposure concentration limits and exposure monitoring.
Once the proposed rule is published in the Federal Register, EPA will accept public comments on it for 60 days at regulations.gov/docket/EPA-HQ-OPPT-2020-0465.
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