The toxics watch group EcoWaste Coalition has called attention to a recent decision by the US government to ban methylene chloride (MC) in paint stripping products for consumer use.
“The regulation banning retail sale in US of paint removers with MC for consumer use sends a clear signal to importers, manufacturers, distributors and retailers in the Philippines about the need to switch to MC-free products,” said Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.
“The prohibition, which is currently limited to consumer use of MC-based paint strippers, should also cover commercial paint and coating removal to prevent workers’ exposure to this toxic chemical,” he added.
Last March 15, 2019, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) took action after finding the risks to consumers to be unreasonable resulting in acute fatalities due to exposure to MC.
“Acute (short-term) exposures to methylene chloride fumes can rapidly cause dizziness, loss of consciousness, and death due to nervous system depression. People have died after being incapacitated during paint and coating removal with methylene chloride,” the EPA said.
According to the advocacy group “Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families” based in US, “at least 64 people have died from acute exposure to MC since 1980.”
The EPA has stated that “a variety of effective, less harmful substitutes are readily available for paint removal.”
To raise local awareness about toxic MC in paint removers, the EcoWaste Coalition partnered with the Philippine Association of Paint Manufacturers (PAPM) for a forum held last October 2018 with visiting scientist Dr. Greg Morose from the University of Massachusetts Lowell as speaker.
"Based on environmental, health and safety evaluation and performance testing, it is possible to design and test alternatives to methylene chloride based paint strippers that are safer, cost effective, and have equivalent performance," Dr. Morose said.
The EcoWaste Coalition has lauded the positive outcome of Dr. Morose ‘s interaction with the local paint industry.
As a result, at least one major company has begun testing and evaluating MC-free substitutes for their paint removing product, the group said.
Prior to the said forum, the EcoWaste Coalition in July 2018 wrote to the PAPM proposing a voluntary phase-out of MC in paint removers in light of regulatory and industry trends, particularly in the European Union and the USA.
“We are optimistic that in due time only MC-free paint strippers will be produced and sold for all uses. This will contribute to a safe working environment for Filipino workers,” Dizon said.