According to EPA findings issued on June 24, methylene chloride, also known as methylene dichloride and dichloromethane, poses threats to human safety and health in 47 of 53 kinds of uses reviewed. The threats posed by methylene chloride affect both workers exposed to its commercial uses and consumers.
The kinds of uses reviewed by the EPA included commercial paint and coating removal, sealants, degreasers, cleaners, automobile care products and consumer adhesives. According to the EPA, the chemical is used by consumers in aerosol cleaners and degreasers, air conditioner fluids for automobiles, and arts and crafts adhesives. In commercial settings, methylene chloride is used for automotive care products, aerosol spray cleaners, adhesives and paint or coating remover.
While the chemical poses a risk to humans, the EPA found no unreasonable risk to the environment. The EPA studied sediment and surface water contaminants to determine the impact of methylene chloride on plants and aquatic life.
The risks to consumers and workers are from skin exposure and through inhalation. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has set a permissible exposure limit for particles of methylene chloride per million parts of air over the course of an eight-hour period. If the chemical is used in the processing of food or beverages, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration sets limits for the amount of residue from the chemical that can remain in food products.
The guidelines set by OSHA require employers to provide respirators, other safety equipment and proper ventilation for employees who work with methylene chloride. The EPA has suggested that it may in the future establish a federally enforceable limited access, training and certification program for methylene chloride.
If an employee has become ill or was injured as the result of improper exposure to chemicals in the workplace, that person may be entitled to compensation. An attorney with a background in workers compensation claims may offer advice to someone who has been injured due to chemical exposure in the workplace.