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Most uses of methylene chloride pose health risks, US EPA says

by Britt E. Erickson
November 2, 2019 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 97, Issue 43


Picture of worker wearing white lab coat and gloves removing paint from wood.
Credit: Shutterstock
Methylene chloride in paint removers and many other products poses a health risk to workers, the US EPA says.

Dozens of uses of methylene chloride pose an unreasonable risk to workers and consumers, the US Environmental Protection Agency says in a draft assessment released on Oct. 29. Methylene chloride is a likely human carcinogen and has acute effects on the central nervous system, including loss of consciousness and death. It is widely used as a solvent, as a propellant, and in the manufacturing of other chemicals, according to the EPA. Numerous products contain methylene chloride, including sealants, adhesives, automotive lubricants and degreasers, and paint and coating removers. Earlier this year, the EPA banned the use of methylene chloride in paint removers sold to consumers, but the agency stopped short of prohibiting its use in commercial paint removers. The latest assessment finds unreasonable risks for most industrial and commercial uses of methylene chloride even with the use of respirators. It is unclear what steps the EPA will take to mitigate such risks. The agency is seeking public comments on the draft assessment until Dec. 30. An advisory committee will peer review the document at a Dec. 3–4 meeting.


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