The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing a ban under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) on most uses of methylene chloride (CH2Cl2). Methylene chloride, also known as dichloromethane and DCM, is a volatile chemical used in a wide range of industrial, commercial, and consumer applications such as adhesives, sealants, degreasers, cleaners, and automobile products.
Methylene chloride is also used in industrial settings for making other chemicals. For example, methylene chloride is used as a chemical intermediate in the production of hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) 32, which is used in refrigerant blends developed to replace substances with higher global warming potential.
Since 1980, at least 85 people have died from acute exposure to methylene chloride, largely workers engaged in home renovation contracting work and even, in some cases, while fully trained and equipped with personal protective equipment. Many more have experienced severe and long-lasting health impacts, including certain cancers. Still, use of methylene chloride has remained widespread, even after EPA banned one consumer use in 2019.
EPA identified risks for adverse human health effects, including neurotoxicity, liver effects, and cancer from inhalation and dermal exposures to methylene chloride.
EPA’s proposed risk management rule would rapidly phase down manufacturing, processing and distribution of methylene chloride for all consumer uses and most industrial and commercial uses, most of which would be fully implemented in 15 months. For most of the uses of methylene chloride that EPA is proposing to prohibit, EPA’s analysis found that alternative products with similar costs and efficacy to methylene chloride products are generally available.
For the industrial manufacturing, industrial processing, and federal uses that EPA is not proposing to prohibit, EPA is proposing a workplace chemical protection program with strict exposure limits to better protect workers. EPA has received data from industry that indicate some facilities may already be meeting the stronger proposed methylene chloride exposure limits. These proposed requirements would allow the continued processing of methylene chloride to produce chemicals that are important in efforts to reduce global warming outlined in the the American Innovation and Manufacturing Act. Climate-friendly refrigerants and other chemicals play a significant role in combatting climate change and EPA’s proposed rule supports continued efforts to reduce emissions.
Similarly, EPA is also proposing that specific uses of methylene chloride required by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the Department of Defense, and the Federal Aviation Administration could continue with strict workplace controls because sufficient reductions in exposure are possible in these environments, thereby minimizing risks to workers.
The proposed prohibitions and restrictions would also protect communities from methylene chloride exposure. EPA identified potential risks to fenceline communities from a small number of facilities using six years of Toxics Release Inventory exposure data. The prohibitions in EPA’s proposed rule would cover ongoing uses of methylene chloride at a majority of these facilities, effectively eliminating the potential risks to the neighboring communities.