The current EPA Administration has failed to create badly-needed regulations of new chemicals under the Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA). TSCA is the law that empowered EPA regulators to ban lead paint, remove asbestos from our homes and schools, and ensure that our shared spaces don’t contain dangerous levels of radon or mercury. Congress passed a bill to modernize TSCA in 2016 to ensure that regulators have the power to protect Americans against a host of chemicals used in an array of household products from paints and paint strippers to floor stains and varnishes. Yet the EPA remains silent while companies continue to sell products that contain chemicals we know are toxic.
One such chemical is 1-methyl-2-pyrrolidone, commonly known as NMP. It is widely used in paint strippers and wood floor coatings and is the subject of growing concern for health experts around the world. It can cause damage to unborn children and may cause serious eye, skin and respiratory irritation. It is so dangerous that the European Commission has named it a Substance of Very High Concern (SVHC) and has added it to its REACH Annex XVII restricted substances list. In the EU, after May 9, 2020 NMP shall not be in consumer products in mixtures in a concentration equal to or greater than 0.3%.
NMP is also named a priority substance under TSCA, but the EPA has done nothing to regulate its use.
Following an intensive campaign by Mind the Store, several retailers including Lowes, Home Depot and Walmart already pledged to phase out NMP from paint stripper on their shelves. That’s a step in the right direction, but we need to make sure that it is removed from all the products on all store shelves. Manufacturers must be committed to using their scientific and technological capabilities to work with partners throughout the value chain to develop sustainable alternatives to NMP that continue to offer the highest performance to consumers. In fact, many safer alternatives are already on the market and available to consumers and contractors.
Consumers deserve a partner in the US government that is committed to keeping its citizens safe from harmful chemicals. Regulators should not turn their backs to the American people allowing millions of Americans to continue to unknowingly be exposed to harmful chemicals in their homes, offices, schools and office buildings.
By Hugh Welsh, North American President, Royal DSM
DSM, a global life sciences company, has announced that by July 2020, the company will stop using NMP in all resins products, which are used to make paints or wood care products such as floor coatings. This is part of the company’s broader proactive product stewardship approach to phase out all chemicals of high concern from finished products by 2025.