EPA Releases Final Risk Evaluation for Methylene Chloride

On June 19, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published its final risk evaluation for methylene chloride. In this blog post, we discuss this evaluation and its significance.

About Methylene Chloride

Also known as dichloromethane, methylene chloride is a volatile organic liquid with strong solvent properties. Used in numerous industries, it has a diverse range of applications, including in adhesive production, ink manufacturing, metal cleaning, paint removal, pharmaceutical development, and more.

There are several routes of exposure for methylene chloride (e.g., eye exposure, inhalation exposure, skin exposure), and a number of corresponding health risks exist. As high exposure levels have been linked to different types of cancer, methylene chloride has been classified as a probable human carcinogen.

Key Findings

The EPA's final risk evaluation for methylene chloride yielded several key findings, based on an assessment of 53 diverse conditions of use.

  • For any condition of use, no unreasonable risks to the environment were found
  • For most conditions of use (47 of the 53), unreasonable risks to human health were found
    • Unreasonable risks were found for all consumer uses of methylene chloride
    • Unreasonable risks were found for most commercial uses of methylene chloride (for both workers and occupational non-users)

An Important Milestone

The release of the final risk evaluation for methylene chloride is particularly significant as it represents the first chemical evaluation to be fuinalized under the amended Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). In a statement from Andrew Wheeler, EPA Administrator, he commented on the importance of this event, noting “EPA’s work to evaluate chemicals under TSCA is critical to our mission of protecting public health and the environment”. He further noted that this action “builds on last year’s ban on consumer sales of certain methylene chloride products and will guide the agency’s efforts to further reduce risks from this chemical”.

Having Access to Vital Information

Information gleaned from chemical risk evaluation is essential in efforts to help protect human and environmental health. Equally important is having a deep understanding of chemical substances, their properties, and their many uses.

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