The head of the Environmental Protection Agency met Tuesday with Cindy Wynne and Wendy Hartley, whose young sons recently died from inhaling methylene chloride, a chemical commonly found in paint strippers sold across the country. They wanted to know why Pruitt delayed an Obama-era rule banning that chemical, which has killed dozens of people who inhaled it over the last decade.
The women and their families reportedly came out of the meeting disappointed. But on Thursday, the EPA released a statement saying it “intends to finalize” the rule prohibiting methylene chloride from being used in paint and coating removal products. That doesn’t mean the rule is final yet; that will happen “shortly,” according to the EPA’s release. “EPA is working diligently to implement the new law get the most modern and safe chemicals to market, and to ensure the safety of existing chemicals,” it read.
While Pruitt has faced a great deal of criticism over his policy agenda—killing environmental regulations for the benefit of industry—his decision to delay a methylene chloride ban was highlighted in a congressional hearing two weeks ago. “Mr. Pruitt, your deregulatory agenda cost lives,” Congressman Frank Pallone told him. “You have the power to finalize the ban on methylene chloride now and prevent more deaths, but you haven’t done it.”
Now that Pruitt has said he will do it, the families of Drew Wynne and Kevin Hartley are cautiously optimistic. “We will delay any celebration until paint strippers containing this deadly chemical are actually off the market,” said Sarah Vogel, the vice president of health for the Environmental Defense Fund, which has been working with the families. “There are a number of steps that now must be taken in order to effectively finalize and implement this ban. But if methylene chloride in paint strippers is effectively removed from the marketplace, it will be a good day for American families.”