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Assessing and Managing Chemicals under TSCA

Final Risk Evaluation for Methylene Chloride

As part of EPA’s mission to protect human health and the environment, the agency has completed a final risk evaluation for methylene chloride under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). In the final methylene chloride risk evaluation, EPA reviewed 53 conditions of use, such as commercial paint and coating removal, consumer adhesives, sealants, degreasers, cleaners and automobile care products.  

The methylene chloride risk evaluation contains the agency’s final determinations on which conditions of use present unreasonable risks to human health or the environment based on a robust review of the scientific data. To prepare the final risk evaluation, EPA reviewed extensive scientific literature, conducted modeling and other risk assessment activities, and collected toxicity, exposure, and hazard information from many sources.

Releasing a final risk evaluation is the last step in the process required by TSCA and will guide the agency’s efforts to reduce harmful human exposure to this chemical. EPA will now begin the process of developing ways to address the unreasonable risks identified and has up to one year to propose and take public comments on any risk management actions.

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Risk Evaluation Findings

In the June 2020 final risk evaluation, EPA reviewed the exposures and hazards of methylene chloride uses and made the following final risk findings on this chemical. This final risk evaluation includes input from the public and peer reviewers as required by TSCA and associated regulations. In making these risk determinations EPA considered the hazards and exposure, magnitude of risk, exposed population, severity of the hazard, uncertainties, and other factors.

EPA found no unreasonable risks to the environment from any conditions of use. The agency assessed the impact of methylene chloride on aquatic species like fish, amphibians, and aquatic plants through surface water and sediment exposures. After reviewing this data, EPA found no unreasonable risk to the environment.

EPA found unreasonable risks to human health from 47 out of 53 conditions of use of methylene chloride.

  • Consumers: EPA found unreasonable risks to consumers from all consumer uses of methylene chloride. Common consumer uses include aerosol degreasers/cleaners, adhesives/sealants, paint brush cleaners, lubricants, arts and crafts glue, and automobile care products like air conditioner fluids. Risks to consumers can come from short-term inhalation and dermal (through the skin) exposure.
  • Workers and Occupational Non-Users: EPA found unreasonable risks to workers from most commercial uses of methylene chloride. Additionally, EPA found unreasonable risks from most commercial uses of this chemical to workers nearby but not in direct contact with methylene chloride (known as occupational non-users). Common commercial uses include solvents for vapor degreasing, aerosol spray cleaners, adhesives, paint/coating remover, and automotive care products. Risks to workers and occupational non-users can come from both short- and long-term inhalation and dermal (through the skin) exposure.

Using Products Safely and Alternatives

While EPA is working through the process required by TSCA to manage the unreasonable risks found from methylene chloride, the information below provides ways to reduce exposure.

For any chemical product, EPA strongly recommends that users carefully follow all instructions on the product’s label. For example, labels for many consumer products containing methylene chloride warn users that vapors from this chemical are harmful. Among other precautions, the labels state that the product should be used only with adequate ventilation and never in enclosed spaces. The labels also instruct users that if they notice a strong odor or experience dizziness, the users should stop and leave the area immediately. In short, the methylene chloride labels state that if the work area is not well-ventilated, people should not use the product.

Consumers should not use paint and coating removers containing methylene chloride. In March 2019, EPA banned sales of methylene chloride in paint and coating removers for consumer use. After November 22, 2019, all persons are prohibited from manufacturing (including importing), processing, and distributing in commerce, including distribution to and by retailers, methylene chloride for consumer paint and coating removal. Please consult your state and local government solid waste agencies to obtain proper disposal instructions for leftover or unused paint and coating removal products. Learn more about this action.

Consumers wishing to avoid exposure should ask retailers if products used contain methylene chloride and consider not using products that do contain this chemical. Consumers also can choose to not use products where they do not know the active ingredients. Examples of consumer products that could contain this chemical include aerosol degreasers/cleaners, adhesives/sealants, paint brush cleaners, lubricants, arts and crafts glue, and automobile care products like air conditioner fluids.

Workers using methylene chloride products should continue to follow label instructions and applicable workplace regulations and should properly use appropriate personal protective equipment.

There are many solvents on the market, some of which might be suitable replacements for methylene chloride depending on the condition of use. EPA has done some analysis of alternatives to methylene chloride with respect to paint and coating removal products and a variety of alternatives are available. These include other chemical products as well as mechanical methods. Additional work on identifying whether alternatives exist for other methylene chloride uses will take place in the coming months.

Next Steps and Public Participation

The next step in the process required by TSCA is risk management. EPA will propose and take public comments on actions to address the unreasonable risks identified in the risk evaluation. According to TSCA, the agency must finalize those actions within two years of completing the final risk evaluation. EPA’s proposed regulations could include prohibitions or requirements that limit the manufacture, processing, distribution in commerce, use, or disposal of this chemical substance, as applicable.

EPA is committed to being open and transparent as the agency follows the process required by the law for evaluating unreasonable risks from chemicals. EPA will continue to keep the public updated as the agency moves through the risk management process. By following the comprehensive risk evaluation process required by TSCA ensures that EPA has confidence in our final conclusions about whether a chemical substance poses any unreasonable risks to health or the environment under the conditions of use. This then allows the public to have confidence in the safety of chemicals on the market.

There will be additional opportunities for public participation. Just like the risk evaluation process, there will be opportunities for public comment as EPA works to propose and finalize risk management actions for methylene chloride. You can stay informed by signing for our email alerts or checking the public docket at EPA-HQ-OPPT-2016-0742 at www.regulations.gov. 

Final Risk Evaluation and Supporting Documents

Below are the final risk evaluation for methylene chloride, non-technical summary, response to comments, and other supporting documents.

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