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Last year when the Environmental Protection Agency passed sweeping new chemical laws, the agency was given increased powers to restrict certain chemicals. But now the agency is back peddling from previous efforts started under the Obama administration to ban three chemicals: methylene chloride, N-methylpyrrolidone (NMP) and trichloroethylene (TCE).

According to a report in The New York Times, the EPA announced this week that it would move the three chemicals from a rule category that would consider banning the substances to “long term action.” The change could delay new rulemaking for the chemicals indefinitely.

All three substances are on the EPA’s list of 10 high-priority chemicals that the agency was given new authority to review at a faster rate under the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety For The 21st Century Act.

Methylene chloride and NMP, both paint strippers, have a number of known toxic effects. NMP is considered a developmental toxin, while methylene chloride has been implicated in the deaths of at least 17 workers who were handling the chemical.

TCE, which is used in dry cleaning and as an industrial degreaser, has already been deemed a “known carcinogen” by the EPA.

Environmental advocates have been pushing for stronger restrictions on the chemicals and regulators in California recently proposed a new rule that could eventually lead to a ban of methylene chloride in the state.

The EPA declined to publicly comment on the decision to delay action on the three chemicals.

Congressman Frank Pallone, a Democrat of New Jersey, told the NYT that the delays are “unnecessary and dangerous.”  

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