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NGOs Challenge EPA’s Methylene Chloride Risk Evaluation
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By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton

On July 16, 2020, a coalition of non-governmental organizations (NGO) filed a petition in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, challenging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) final risk evaluation for methylene chloride.  The NGOs seek review of EPA’s determination “that the chemical methylene chloride does not present an unreasonable risk of injury to health or the environment under certain conditions of use” and its decision not to consider “certain uses and pathways through which members of Petitioners are exposed and face risks of exposure to methylene chloride.”  The coalition includes the Neighbors for Environmental Justice; the New Jersey Work Environment Council; Sierra Club; the United Steel, Paper and Forestry, Rubber, Manufacturing, Energy, Allied Industrial and Service Workers International Union, AFL-CIO; and the Natural Resources Defense Council.  According to Earthjustice’s July 16, 2020, press release, the NGOs “represent workers who manufacture and use methylene chloride and communities that are exposed to methylene chlorid[]e from their air and water.”

As reported in our June 25, 2020, memorandum, “Final Risk Evaluation for Methylene Chloride Is First Completed under Lautenberg Act Amendments,” after evaluating 53 conditions of use of methylene chloride, EPA determined that 47 conditions of use present an unreasonable risk of injury to health, while six do not present an unreasonable risk.  EPA also determined that methylene chloride does not present an unreasonable risk to the environment under any conditions of use.  Release of a final risk evaluation is the last step in the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Section 6(b) process and will guide EPA’s efforts in applying Section 6(a) to reduce human exposure to methylene chloride “so that the chemical . . . no longer presents such risk.”  EPA “will now begin the process of developing ways to address the unreasonable risks identified and has up to one year to propose and take public comments on any risk management actions.”  EPA could prohibit or limit the manufacture, processing, distribution in commerce, use, or disposal of methylene chloride.  Any regulatory action will include opportunities for public comment.