It is a clear, slightly sweet organic liquid solvent that can present significant safety hazards in the workplace if strict handling instructions are not followed.
Dichloromethane is also commonly known as methylene chloride, methylene dichloride, Di-clo, and DCM.
Dichloromethane is used in a variety of industries and is especially useful in chemical processes due to its ability to dissolve various organic compounds.
Some of the many ways that dichloromethane is used are:
- As an active ingredient in organic-based paint removers.
- In the manufacture of pharmaceuticals and other medicines.
- Aerosols for insecticides and aerosol paint.
- Manufacturing techniques for creating decaffeinated coffee beans and tea leaves.
- To prepare flavorings in the food and beverage industries.
Potential dangers of dichloromethane
Classified as a neurotoxin, dichloromethane has been shown to cause damage to the brain and central nervous system (CNS). The Environmental Protection Agency (APA) has classified it as a probable human carcinogen as high levels of exposure to the chemical have been shown to cause liver and lung cancer in animals.
The following health risks are associated with exposure to dichloromethane:
- Inhalation: May cause coughing, wheezing and / or shortness of breath. Higher levels of dichloromethane inhalation can lead to headache, mental confusion, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, and fatigue.
- Skin Exposure: May cause redness and irritation if the skin comes in contact with liquid dichloromethane and, if it remains on the skin for an extended period, it may cause skin burns.
- Eye Exposure: Contact with the eyes can cause severe irritation and possibly chemical burns to the eyes.
Safety Precautions When Handling Dichloromethane
When handling dichloromethane in the workplace, use the following safety precautions:
- Wear protective clothing. Footwear must cover the entire foot.
- Always wear chemical splash goggles and safety gloves.
- Work in a well-ventilated area (preferably in an environment with a smoke extraction system).
What to do when exposed to dichloromethane?
Here are the safety steps to take if you or someone else is exposed to dichloromethane:
With the eyes. Immediately flush eyes with large amounts of water for at least 30 minutes. If applicable, remove contact lenses when rinsing. Seek medical attention.
Immediately remove contaminated clothing and wash skin with large amounts of soap and water. Seek medical attention if irritation occurs.
The individual should leave the exposure area and immediately move to an area with fresh air. Seek medical attention immediately if any difficulty in breathing occurs.
Handling Dichloromethane Spills and Leaks
In the event of a dichloromethane spill or leak, there are several steps you need to take:
- Eliminate personnel from the area.
- Secure and control entry to the area.
- If safe, stop or reduce spill / leak.
- Absorb liquids on a material such as dry sand earth or a similar material and place them in airtight containers.
- Ventilate area of spill or leak.
- Do not wash in the sink or sewer.
Dichloromethane is highly volatile and should be stored in a cool, dry area in tightly closed and labeled containers. This chemical should be kept away from metals, light, and any source of heat or ignition.
Large containers of this chemical should be placed on low, closed shelves to avoid the risk of accidental spills.
In many countries, products containing dichloromethane must carry labels that warn of their health risks.
In February 2013, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (ASSO) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health warned that at least 14 bathroom manufacturers have died since 2000 from exposure to dichloromethane. .
These workers had been working alone, in poorly ventilated bathrooms, with insufficient or no respiratory protection, and no training on the dangers of dichloromethane.
In the European Union, the European Parliament voted in 2009 to ban the use of dichloromethane in paint removers for consumers and many professionals. The ban went into effect in December 2010.
In Europe, the Scientific Committee on Occupational Exposure Limit Values (CCVLEO) recommends for dichloromethane an occupational exposure limit (8 hours time-weighted average) of 100 ppm and a short-term exposure limit (15 min) of 200 ppm.
Concerns about its effects on health have led to a search for alternatives in many of these applications.