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Toxics: EPA Assessment Of Methylene Chloride In Paint Strippers Identifies Health Risks

by Britt E. Erickson
September 5, 2014 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 92, Issue 36

The primary ingredient in paint strippers—methylene chloride, also known as dichloromethane—poses a risk of cancer, as well as neurological and liver problems, in workers exposed to the chemical, the Environmental Protection Agency says in an assessment released on Aug. 28. Consumers who use these products face short-term risks of neurological effects, according to the agency.

Methylene chloride is a volatile organic compound widely used as a solvent in numerous products, including adhesives, pharmaceuticals, metal degreasers, and aerosols, as well as paint strippers. EPA’s assessment, however, focuses only on paint strippers. Exposure is expected to be low for other applications, EPA says.

EPA is considering voluntary and regulatory actions to reduce the risks of methylene chloride. The agency plans to meet with stakeholders and the public to determine potential alternatives to the chemical in paint strippers and other ways to reduce exposure to it.

“The pressures on product manufacturers to select the safest and most efficacious chemical ingredients in their products can only be expected to increase,” predicts the law firm Bergeson & Campbell.

The assessment is one of dozens expected to be released under an EPA effort to review the safety of 83 chemicals under the Toxic Substances Control Act. The results could lead EPA to ban, restrict, or require labeling of the chemicals or declare them safe for current uses.


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