Methylene chloride — a toxic chemical found in a wide variety of paint strippers and adhesives — has killed at least 64 people since 1980.
Yet days ago, Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency weakened a ban on the chemical that former President Barack Obama’s administration proposed one day before his last term expired — creating a loophole so that commercial contractors can still use products containing the deadly substance.
Of course, in a news release announcing the weakened regulation, the EPA didn’t exactly draw attention to this loophole. In fact, the release — titled “EPA Bans Consumer Sales of Methylene Chloride Paint Removers, Protecting Public” — gave the impression that the Trump administration was banning the substance altogether.
“After analyzing the health impacts and listening to affected families, EPA is taking action to stop the use of this chemical in paint removers intended for consumers,” EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler said in the release. “Today’s decision reflects EPA’s commitment to ensure that chemicals in the retail marketplace are safe for the American public.”
Yet Wheeler did not let on that the new ban is weaker than the ban Obama’s EPA proposed.
For now, the chemical will be available for use for contractors while the EPA takes public comments on whether contractors should also be banned from using the substance.
Families of people who died from the chemical are outraged over the EPA’s decision to implement a weaker ban on the chemical.
They include Wendy Hartley, whose 21-year-old son Kevin died from the chemical in 2017 while finishing bathtubs for his family business. Hartley filed a lawsuit in January against the government for having failed to ban the substance.
“I am deeply disappointed that the EPA has decided to weaken its proposed ban on methylene chloride,” Hartley said in a statement to the Washington Post. “Getting this deadly chemical out of consumers’ hands is a step in the right direction — a step that was started by retailers nationwide. Workers who use methylene chloride will now be left unprotected and at risk of health issues or death. I will continue my fight until the EPA does its job.”
But given recent history, it’s hardly shocking that Trump’s EPA would green-light the sale of toxic chemicals.
It has, after all, weakened a ban on cancer-causing asbestos, contemplated allowing minors to handle pesticides that cause brain damage and cancer, and has refused to set limits on the levels of toxic chemicals in drinking water.
Allowing workers to continue handling a chemical that has caused dozens of deaths is simply par for the course for Trump’s EPA.
Published with permission of The American Independent.
IMAGE: EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler.