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EPA Eying Curbs on Paint Stripper as Cancer Risk

October 7, 1985

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Environmental Protection Agency will announce Tuesday that it may regulate a widely used paint stripper and industrial solvent because of the danger of cancer, an industry group said Monday.

The Halogenated Solvents Industry Alliance said it had submitted new data to the agency showing that the chemical, methylene chloride, posed far less of a risk to humans than the EPA believed.

EPA spokesman Dave Ryan confirmed that the agency planned to announce soon that it was contemplating regulation of methylene chloride, but not necessarily on Tuesday. ″This is not a guarantee of regulation,″ Ryan said.

In May, the EPA began a special, accelerated review of data on methylene chloride because of new tests that showed it caused lung tumors in mice.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Food and Drug Administration also are investigating methylene chloride.

About 240,000 tons of methylene chloride are used every year, about half as paint strippers and aerosol propellants. Other important uses include the manufacture of drugs and insulating foams and as a cleaning solvent in the electronics industry. It has been valued for decades because of its low flammability and power as a solvent.

Paul Cammer, executive director of the solvents association, said he had provided the EPA with preliminary results of an industry study in England which he said showed that mice metabolize methylene chloride entirely differently than rats.

Those studies are expected to show that humans react not like mice but like rats, in which methylene chloride does not cause cancer, he said.

Cammer said a long-term study of 751 Eastman Kodak Co. workers exposed to methylene chloride in declining concentrations for 20 years and another 20 years after their retirement showed no increase in cancer compared with non- exposed Kodak workers.

An EPA scientist who spoke only on condition that he not be identified said the English study would be considered by his agency.

The agency believes that not enough Kodak workers were followed long enough to draw any conclusions, the scientist said.

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