EPA Criticized for Delaying Ban on Toxic Chemicals

Bans on certain uses of three toxic chemicals in consumer products have been put on indefinite hold by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, prompting criticism from environmentalists and others.

The chemicals are methylene chloride and N-methylpyrrolidone (NMP) -- used in paint strippers -- and trichloroethylene (TCE), which is used as a spot cleaner in dry-cleaning and as a degreasing agent, The New York Times reported.

Methylene chloride is a threat to the brain and liver and NMP can damage the reproductive system. The EPA itself has concluded that TCE can cause cancer in people and the chemical has also been linked to birth defects.

The EPA first declared several years ago that certain uses of the three chemicals are dangerous. The decision to indefinitely postpone bans on those uses was revealed in an update of the Trump administration's regulatory plans, The Times reported.

The policy reversal highlights the EPA's hesitancy to use enforcement powers it received from Congress last year, according to critics.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, a Trump appointee, is "blatantly ignoring Congress's clear directive to the agency to better protect the health and safety of millions of Americans by more effectively regulating some of the most dangerous chemicals known to man," said Senator Tom Carper, Democrat of Delaware. He is the ranking minority member on the Senate Environment and Public Works committee.

"The delays are very disturbing," Dr. Richard Denison, lead senior scientist of the Environmental Defense Fund, told The Times. "This latest agenda shows that instead of using their expanded authorities under this new law, the EPA is shoving health protections from highly toxic chemicals to the very back of the back burner."

"These indefinite delays are unnecessary and dangerous," said Representative Frank Pallone, Democrat of New Jersey. He is the ranking minority member of the House Energy and Commerce committee.

"The harmful impacts of these chemicals are avoidable, and EPA should finalize the proposed rules as soon as possible," Pallone said, The Times reported.

The EPA refused to comment on the issue.

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