What is Methylene Chloride?
Methylene chloride, also known as dichloromethane and methylene dichloride, is a clear, colorless liquid with a slightly sweet scent that is primarily used as an industrial solvent and as a potent paint stripper and paint thinner.
Methylene chloride is predominantly used as a solvent in paint strippers and removers; as a process solvent in the manufacture of drugs, pharmaceuticals, and film coatings; as a metal cleaning and finishing solvent in electronics manufacturing; and as an agent in urethane foam blowing. Methylene chloride is also used as a propellant in aerosols for products such as paints, automotive products, and insect sprays. It is used as an extraction solvent for spice oleoresins, hops, and for the removal of caffeine from coffee. However, due to concern over residual solvent, most decaffeinates no longer use methylene chloride. Methylene chloride is also approved for use as a postharvest fumigant for grains and strawberries and as a fortifying agent for citrus fruit.
Sources & Potential Exposure
The acute (short-term) effects of methylene chloride inhalation in humans consist mainly of nervous system effects including decreased visual, auditory, and motor functions, but these effects are reversible once exposure ceases. The effects of chronic (long-term) exposure to methylene chloride suggest that the central nervous system (CNS) is a potential target in humans and animals. Human data are inconclusive regarding methylene chloride and cancer. Animal studies have shown increases in liver and lung cancer and benign mammary gland tumors following the inhalation of methylene chloride.The principal route of human exposure to methylene chloride is inhalation of ambient air. Occupational and consumer exposure to methylene chloride in indoor air may be much higher, especially from spray painting or other aerosol uses. People who work in these places can breathe in the chemical or it may come into contact with the skin. Methylene chloride has been detected in both surface water and groundwater samples taken at hazardous waste sites and in drinking water at very low concentrations.
- No conclusive findings.