Updated: May 2019
Summary: An overhaul in 2016 of the main U.S. chemical safety law, the Toxic Substances Control Act, required EPA to choose the first 10 chemicals for risk evaluation. DCM, one of the first 10 chemicals, is commonly used in paint and coating removal products but is also found in automotive products, adhesives, degreasers, and more. DCM is acutely lethal, and EPA has classified it as a likely carcinogen.
Following years of delay, in late March 2019, the Environmental Protection Agency finalized a rule that bans methylene chloride in paint strippers for consumer uses but still allows use of the deadly products in workplaces. While this step provides long-overdue protection of consumers, it falls far short of what is needed to protect all Americans.
What kinds of products may use it?
- Paints and coatings including paint and coating removers
- Degreasers for metal cleaning
- Adhesives and sealants
- Aerosol propellants (such as spray paints)
- Cleaning and furniture care
- Automotive care
- Laundry and dishwashing
What hazards does it pose?
- Likely human carcinogen
- Liver toxicity
- Moderately persistent in the environment
Who may be exposed or most at risk?
- Workers and occupational bystanders in methylene chloride manufacturing and processing industries
- Workers using commercial products, such as paint stripping in bathtub and furniture refinishing
- Consumers using DCM containing products
- People that depend on water sources contaminated with DCM
- People that live near industrial or commercial facilities that use DCM
Production profile (2015)
- U.S. manufacture (production and import): 263,971,494 lbs
- Number of manufacturers: at least 16
- Number of manufacturing sites: 21
What industries use it?
- Refrigerant gas manufacturing
- Polyurethane foam manufacturing
- Textile and leather treatment and cleaning
- Drilling and extraction purposes for oil and gas
- Chemicals and plastic manufacturing
- Solvent extraction for food products such as spices and oils
- Used in machinery lubricants
DCM additional resources
- EPA factsheet [PDF]
- EPA: Preliminary information on manufacturing, processing, distribution, use, and disposal [PDF]
- EPA: Scope of risk evaluation [PDF]
- EPA: Problem formulation [PDF]
- EPA: TSCA work plan chemical risk assessment methylene chloride: Paint stripping use [PDF]
- EPA: Integrated Risk Information System chemical assessment summary [PDF]
- EDF resources