Methylene Chloride Cancer Risk

Paint Stripper Cancer Risk (Methylene Chloride)

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) urges consumers to reduce their cancer risk when working with paint strippers and adhesive removers containing methylene chloride by using products outdoors or by ventilating the work area.  Methylene chloride has been shown to cause cancer in certain laboratory animals. 

To properly ventilate the work area, open all windows and doors and use a fan to exhaust the air outside.  Since 1987, when warning labels were required for products containing methylene chloride, there has been a 55% reduction in the estimated number of cancers caused annually in the U.S. from these products.  However, CPSC is still concerned about the potential risk to consumers who inhale high levels of fumes when using paint strippers and adhesive removers.

The CPSC staff is studying various substitutes for methylene chloride to evaluate the flammability and chronic hazards of those formulations.  In addition, the Commission staff is studying current warning labels and consumer education materials and may propose revisions to them in the future, emphasizing the importance of ventilation when working with methylene chloride products. - Consumer Product SAFETY ALERT from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, Washington, D.C. 20207   

(N.B. In general, CSA does not recommend methylene chloride paint strippers (see the accompanying article on N-methylpyrrolidone for safer substitutes).  In particular, CSA does not recommend using these paint strippers in the basement, due to the difficulty of providing adequate ventilation.  In addition to ventilation, we recommend gloves and goggles.  For products containing just methylene chloride, NBR gloves are suggested, which are available from safety equipment distributors. - Ed.)

 Art Hazard News, Volume 16, No. 4, 1993

This article was originally printed for Art Hazard News, © copyright Center for Safety in the Arts 1993. It appears on nontoxicprint courtesy of the Health in the Arts Program, University of Illinois at Chicago, who have curated a collection of these articles from their archive which are still relevant to artists today.