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Groups Sue Trump’s EPA Over Failure to Ban Deadly Paint Strippers

EPA unlawfully permitting chemical linked to dozens of deaths to remain on the market
A worker scrapes old paint off a wall.

The EPA estimates that 1.3 million Americans are exposed to methylene chloride from paint strippers in their homes and workplaces each year.

Getty Images
February 19, 2019
Washington, D.C. —

Today, Latino workers represented by Earthjustice, and the Natural Resources Defense Council, sued the Trump administration over its failure to ban the commercial and consumer use of methylene chloride, a highly lethal chemical in paint strippers. More than 50 people have already died from exposure to methylene chloride paint strippers, most of whom were workers exposed on the job.

“The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency knows that methylene chloride is killing workers, and it knows that only a ban will protect them. Yet the Trump administration is so beholden to the chemical industry that it has chosen to leave workers and consumers in harm’s way,” said Earthjustice attorney Jonathan Kalmuss-Katz. “If more than 50 coroner's reports are not enough to get EPA to ban one of the most dangerous chemicals on the market, what is?”

Acute exposure to methylene chloride can cause asphyxiation, heart failure, and sudden death, while long-term exposure increases risks of cancer, liver disease, and other serious health effects. In January 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency determined that methylene chloride presents unreasonable risks to workers, consumers, and bystanders and proposed to ban its use in paint strippers. Since then, at least four more people — including two workers — have died from methylene chloride exposure. Despite repeated promises, the Trump administration has failed to finalize the proposed ban.

“Latino and immigrant workers are more likely to perform jobs that use deadly paint strippers. It’s a fact, that their health is at risk due to exposure to methylene chloride,” said Hector Sanchez Barba, LCLCAA’s executive director. “EPA’s failure to fully regulate this toxic chemical is simply unconscionable. We will not stand by while Latino and immigrant workers’ lives are being put in danger. We deserve as much protection as every other group and should not be exposed to a chemical we know is deadly. Methylene chloride must be banned immediately.”

“While the EPA stalls, workers and do-it-yourself painters are literally dying, and many others are at risk of harm, from exposure to these toxic paint strippers,” said Daniel Rosenberg, senior attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “Wheeler and the failing Trump EPA are hurting the public and violating the law by refusing to finalize the ban on methylene chloride.”

Earthjustice filed the lawsuit on behalf of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, and the Natural Resources Defense Council is representing NRDC.

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Jonathan Kalmuss-Katz, Earthjustice attorney, (212) 823-4989

Andrea Arenas, Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, (202) 508-6989

Anne Hawke, Natural Resources Defense Council (646) 823-4518

Overruling Trump.