HazMat Management

EPA tests find health risks for DCM paint stripping chemical

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September 4, 2014 by Hazmat Management

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released risk assessments for three chemicals commonly found in household products, but only the assessment for dichloromethane (DCM), widely used in paint stripping products, indicates health risks to both workers and consumers.

The EPA estimates that more than 230,000 workers in the US are directly exposed to DCM from DCM-containing paint strippers. However, the other two chemicals tested—antimony trioxide (ATO) used as a synergist in halogenated flame retardants and 1,3,4,6,7,8-Hexahydro-4,6,6,7,8,8,-hexamethylcyclopenta-[ã]-2-benzopyran (HHCB) used as a fragrance ingredient in commercial and consumer products—tested safely.

“While EPA continues to support much needed reform of this country’s chemicals management legislation, we are also using our current authorities as effectively as we can, which includes conducting risk assessments on chemicals to determine if they are safe for the public,” said Jim Jones, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. “Our review indicates that the use of DCM in paint strippers pose risks to human health, so EPA is beginning an effort to determine options for addressing the concern.” 

For DCM, EPA is considering a range of possible voluntary and regulatory actions to address concerns and anticipates conducting a workshop in late fall 2014 to engage key stakeholders and the public on potential alternatives and risk reduction approaches. 

In the meantime, EPA recommends that consumers check the label to determine if the product contains DCM or Methylene Chloride. If so, EPA recommends taking precautions that can reduce exposures, such as using the product outside or in an extremely well-ventilated area and wearing protective equipment. 

EPA is also currently evaluating risks of another chemical in paint strippers called N-Methylpyrrolidone (NMP). EPA released a draft risk assessment for NMP which identified risks associated with use of NMP-containing paint strippers. EPA does not expect the final risk assessment to significantly change this conclusion, and therefore recommends that those using NMP-containing paint strippers also take measures to minimize exposure.