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Assessing and Managing Chemicals under TSCA

Risk Management for Methylene Chloride

What is Methylene Chloride?

Methylene chloride, which is also called Dichloromethane or DCM, is a volatile chemical used in a variety of industries, such as paint and coating removal, plastic processing, metal cleaning and degreasing, adhesive manufacture, and as a heat transfer fluid. Methylene chloride is produced and imported into the United States, with use estimated at over 260 million pounds per year. EPA estimates that approximately 25 percent of total methylene chloride usage is for paint and coating removal products.

Why is EPA concerned?

There are health risks to workers and consumers who use methylene chloride-containing paint removal products, and to bystanders in workplaces and residences where methylene chloride is used. Effects of short-term (acute) exposures to workers and consumers, including bystanders, can result in harm to the central nervous system, or neurotoxicity. These effects include dizziness, incapacitation, and, in some cases, death. Effects of longer periods of exposure (chronic) for workers includes liver toxicity, liver cancer, and lung cancer.

What can I do to avoid exposure?

Paint removal products contain different chemicals, and the potential hazards are different for various products. Each product has specific safety precautions; many of them are listed on product labels. However, there are some general safety steps to keep in mind when using any paint remover.

These safety steps are outlined in recommendations developed by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. If you plan to use a paint remover, or use them frequently, it is particularly important that you follow their recommendations.

For occupational users of methylene chloride, there are additional requirements and recommendations developed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

What is EPA doing?

  • Previous actions:
    • September 12, 2017 – EPA held a Public Workshop on the Use of Methylene Chloride in Furniture Refinishing in collaboration with the Small Business Administration (SBA) Office of Advocacy, at the EPA Region 1 Headquarters in Boston, Massachusetts.
      • Federal and state governments, industry professionals, furniture refinishing experts, non-government organizations, and academic experts, among others, discussed the role of methylene chloride in furniture refinishing, potential alternatives, economic impacts, and other issues identified in EPA’s January 2017 proposed rule on methylene chloride, which deferred action on the use of methylene chloride in commercial furniture refinishing.
      •  A docket containing meeting materials has been established at https://www.regulations.gov (docket #: EPA-HQ-OPPT-2017-0139). Additional meeting materials are in the docket.
    • January 19, 2017 -- EPA issued a proposed rule under Section 6(a) of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), as amended by the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, to regulate methylene chloride and N-methylpyrrolidone (NMP) in paint and coating removal. Specifically, EPA is proposing to prohibit the manufacture (including import), processing, and distribution in commerce of methylene chloride for all consumer and most types of commercial paint removal, and to prohibit commercial use. EPA is not proposing to regulate methylene chloride in commercial furniture refinishing as part of this proposal, but intends to propose such a regulation at a later date, after it obtains more information on this use. In addition, EPA is proposing to exempt certain national security uses of methylene chloride and NMP from the requirements of this rule. The proposed rule and supporting documents are located in docket EPA-HQ-OPPT-2016-0231 available at: https://www.regulations.gov/. EPA accepted public comments on the proposed rule until May 19, 2017.
    • Risk Assessment: EPA identified the risks posed by methylene chloride when used in paint removers in a final risk assessment released in 2014, TSCA Work Plan Chemical Risk Assessment Methylene Chloride: Paint Stripping Use. This final assessment followed an extensive process of public drafts and peer review. Learn more about this and the status of other TSCA Work Plan Chemical Assessments.
    • In 2012, EPA identified methylene chloride as a TSCA Work Plan chemical for assessment. Learn more about the TSCA Work Plan.