Methylene chloride (also called dichloromethane or DCM) is a solvent used in a variety of industries and applications, such as adhesives, paint and coating removal products, pharmaceuticals, metal cleaning, chemical processing, and aerosols.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Household Products Database lists 56 consumer products that contain methylene chloride. For example, paint stripping products that contain methylene chloride are widely available in retail stores for purchase by consumers and workers.
Companies including Dow Chemical, Occidental and Solvchem report use of 260 million pounds per year. EPA estimates that approximately 25 percent of total methylene chloride usage is for paint and coating removal products.
The 271 facilities required to report to the Toxic Release Inventory reported disposal or release of 3.4 million pounds of the chemical in 2015.
- Probable human carcinogen
- Effects of short-term (acute) exposures to workers and consumers, including bystanders, can result in harm to the central nervous system, or neurotoxicity.
- Effects of longer periods of exposure (chronic) for workers includes liver toxicity, liver cancer, and lung cancer
- Present in drinking water, indoor environments, ambient air, groundwater, and soil
- High reported releases to the environment
Consumers and workers
On August 28, 2014, EPA released its final risk assessment that indicates health risks to both workers and consumers who use these paint and coating removal products, and to bystanders in workplaces and residences where methylene chloride is used. EPA is considering a range of possible voluntary and regulatory actions to address risks from the use of methylene chloride-containing paint and coating removal products.
There are safer alternatives to methylene chloride for a number of consumer and industrial uses.
Under the European Union’s REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals) regulation, TCE is classified as a “substance of very high concern,” and requires authorization before it is used.
For more information:
- EPA Fact Sheet: Methylene Chloride
- U.S. Dep’t of Health and Human Services Household Products Database
- U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission: “What You Should Know About Paint Strippers”
- EPA Pollution Prevention Spotlight: Reducing Dichloromethane Waste Management
- Annex XVII to REACH: Conditions of restriction