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Three more US companies join methylene chloride phase out

Products - Paint stripper ©gabort - stock.adobe.com

US companies Autozone, Kelly-Moore and PPG have committed to phasing out products containing methylene chloride and NMP.

The companies follow in the footsteps of a number of US chains, including Walmart, Home Depot and most recently Canadian Tire.

Paints and coatings company PPG's commitment has implications outside the US. The company says it does not use methylene chloride or NMP as an ingredient in consumer paint strippers and removers that it manufactures in the US or Canada.   

The substances are an ingredient in a "very small number" of its products manufactured and sold outside the two countries, it says. It is therefore working towards a global phase out, including in operations that become part of its portfolio through acquisitions. The company has 150 manufacturing sites worldwide.

However, it declined to provide details on what alternatives or technologies it is using in place of the two chemicals.

The company has asked its suppliers of paint strippers and removers that contain the substances, and that are sold through PPG-owned paint stores, to share plans on how they will phase out use of the chemicals.

It added that as it is working with its suppliers on an individual basis it could not provide information on a "timeline for their actions".

Autozone, a retailer of aftermarket automotive parts and accessories, including paint strippers, confirmed that it has committed to phasing out paint strippers containing the two chemicals by the end of the year. It did not provide further details.

By the time of publishing, paint manufacturer Kelly-Moore had not responded to Chemical Watch's request for confirmation on its commitment. However, an email sent by the company to NGO Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, and seen by Chemical Watch, confirmed that it was committing to a phase out of all paint strippers containing the chemicals by the end of the year. The email added that it has already found alternatives that are NMP and methylene chloride free.   

State and federal action

The use of the substances in paint removal has been heavily criticised in recent months, with reports that exposure to methylene chloride from paint strippers is linked to more than 60 deaths in the US. NMP, a replacement solvent, presents its own toxicity concerns. These issues prompted a US-based NGO campaign launched earlier this year.

The EPA issued a proposal to ban methylene chloride paint strippers under TSCA in the final weeks of the Obama administration. But the rule has stalled under the agency's current leadership.

It announced in May, after a meeting with campaigners, that it would finalise a rule addressing methylene chloride "shortly". The agency has slated a December release for the final rule, according to its autumn semi-annual regulatory agenda update.

Although NMP was also addressed in the original proposal, it says it intends to address it in its ongoing risk evaluation, and "to consider any resulting risk reduction requirements in a separate regulatory action".

At state level, California's Department of Toxic Substances Control has proposed to list paint strippers containing methylene chloride as one of its 'priority products'. More recently, it has begun an informal, pre-regulatory process for listing paint and varnish strippers and graffiti removers containing n-methylpyrrolidone (NMP) a priority product. The DTSC is hoping that both regulations will come into effect next year.

Alternatives

A number of paint strippers claiming to be methylene chloride free have come on the market, since concerns were raised back in 2015. Last week, researchers at the Toxics Use Reduction Institute at the University of Massachusetts Lowell announced that they had developed a new formulation which will soon be marketed. 

The researchers said they identified three "existing safer chemicals" that, when combined in a certain ratio, removes most paint coatings within 20 minutes, comparable to the time it takes for products that contain methylene chloride.

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