EPA Identifies “Unreasonable” Risks to Workers, Consumers from NMP Use
A new draft risk evaluation published by EPA in November identifies “unreasonable risks associated with acute and chronic inhalation and dermal exposure” to N-methylpyrrolidone, or NMP. The draft document (PDF) describes how workers and consumers could be adversely affected by NMP under certain conditions of use. EPA reviewed 30 potential uses of NMP to develop its draft risk evaluation. These potential uses include adhesives, sealants, arts and craft paints, paint and coating removers, adhesive removers, and degreasers. The agency did not find risk to the environment, occupational non-users, or workers in the general area of NMP use.  EPA urges workers who use products containing NMP to follow label instructions and applicable workplace regulations and to use appropriate personal protective equipment such as protective gloves. According to the agency, a variety of alternatives to NMP—including other chemical products and mechanical methods—are available for paint and coating removal. EPA intends to perform additional work to identify whether alternatives exist for other uses of NMP. 
A previous EPA risk assessment of NMP completed in 2015 indicates that both duration of use and a product’s concentration of NMP affect risk associated with NMP use. According to EPA’s 2015 risk assessment, short-term exposures (1–2 hours) to products containing 25 percent or less of NMP result in no risk. However, products containing higher concentrations of the chemical presented risks to users from acute and chronic exposures. NMP is a common alternative to the solvent methylene chloride, which is used in a variety of industries, including paint and coating removal, plastic processing, metal cleaning and degreasing, and adhesive manufacturing. A draft risk evaluation published by EPA in October describes “adverse health risks associated with acute and chronic inhalation exposure” to methylene chloride under some conditions of use, and an EPA ban on retail distribution of methylene chloride to consumers went into effect on Nov. 22. When EPA originally proposed the ban, it also proposed to regulate NMP in paint and coating removal, but the agency did not finalize its proposed determination of “unreasonable risk” for NMP in paint and coating removal through regulatory action. Instead, EPA chose to incorporate NMP use in the risk evaluation for the chemical.  EPA’s new draft risk evaluation of NMP is the sixth that the agency has published under the amended Toxic Substances Control Act legislation. As amended by the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, which was signed into law in June 2016, TSCA requires EPA to complete risk evaluations for 10 chemicals, including NMP, within three years, or by December 2019. TSCA allows for a single six-month extension of this deadline.  EPA is accepting comments on its new draft risk evaluation until Jan. 6, 2020. Instructions for submitting comments are available in the Federal Register.  The Science Advisory Committee on Chemicals—a federal advisory committee charged with providing scientific advice, information, and recommendations to EPA on chemicals regulated under TSCA legislation—reviewed the draft risk evaluation during a meeting that was held in December. Information about the meeting can be found on EPA's website.
EPA urges workers who use products containing NMP to use appropriate personal protective equipment such as protective gloves.