This Solvent Is Killing People

Methylene Chloride is a common solvent that can have serious health consequences and may cause premature death. The greater the exposure an individual experiences, the greater the consequences they may suffer. Like many chemical exposures, the symptoms of injury may not be readily apparent and individuals who experience an exposure should closely monitor their health. Since 1980, more than 50 fatalities have been recorded in the United States that were linked to toxic exposure to the chemical.

Understanding Methylene Chloride

Methylene chloride is a solvent that is used in paint strippers and as a propellant in aerosol sprays. It is used to produce film and to manufacture pharmaceuticals. It is commonly used to clean metal and finish metal goods. It is listed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration as a potentially carcinogenic product and the use of the solvent is strictly regulated. The chemical is colorless, however, it does have a mild, sweet odor which alerts individuals that the chemical is present.

Exposure Hazards

Inhalation is the primary hazard for workers face when handling methylene chloride. Inhalation can occur as the solvent is applied during the manufacturing or production process. This type of exposure can interfere with the body’s ability to deliver oxygen to cells and tissue, and it can lead to impairment of the central nervous system. The greater the concentration of the chemical, the greater the injury the individual will experience.

Individuals can also suffer toxic exposure through direct contact by touching surfaces contaminated with the chemical. Direct contact can cause severe dermatitis. If the contact is to the eyes, it can lead to blindness.

If the chemical is ingested, it can lead to severe gastrointestinal irritation and internal burns to the mouth and throat. It is classified as a poisonous chemical and internal exposure has the ability to cause fatalities. As such, individuals who suffer ingestion exposures require immediate medical treatment.

Retailers React

Many retailers have voluntarily stopped selling products that contain methylene chloride. However, federal regulators have yet to issue a formal ban on the chemical. The EPA has studied the hazards since 2014, yet little has been done to protect workers and consumers. Rules proposed in 2017 remain shelved as regulators debate whether banning the product will improve worker safety and reduce the risk of injury or wrongful death in the workplace.