29 March 2018
Labelling Guidance for Products Containing Methylene Chloride Updated
The Consumer Product Safety Commission has updated its 1987 policy statement to provide guidance regarding the labelling to warn of acute hazards associated with paint strippers containing methylene chloride (DCM).
In 1987, the CPSC issued a statement of interpretation and enforcement policy regarding the labelling of certain household products containing DCM. The statement noted that the CPSC considers those products to be “hazardous substances” under the Federal Hazardous Substances Act that may pose a risk of carcinogenicity. It identified several categories of products that could expose consumers to significant amounts of DCM vapour, including paint strippers, advised manufacturers of the FHSA’s labelling requirements, and provided guidance for labelling those products to warn of the cancer risk from inhaling DCM vapour.
On 7 July 2016, the Halogenated Solvents Industry Alliance petitioned the CPSC to amend its 1987 statement to recognise the acute hazard posed by using household products containing DCM in bathrooms or other enclosed spaces with inadequate ventilation. When consumers use DMC to strip coatings from bathtubs, they often spray or pour a bathtub stripping product into the basin of the bathtub and then brush the product onto the tub surface. Many of these stripping products contain substantial amounts of DCM.
According to the petitioner, DCM is a volatile organic compound that will evaporate quickly when sprayed, brushed or poured, so that its vapour can quickly build up in small spaces. DCM has a high vapour pressure, which causes vapours to collect in the bottom of a bathtub and in a consumer’s breathing zone when working in a bathtub. This situation can create dangerously high concentrations of DCM and in some cases replace the breathable air. The petitioner therefore asked the CPSC to expand the cautionary labelling guidance so that it also warns of the threat of asphyxiation if DCM-based paint strippers are used in an enclosed space.
The Environmental Protection Agency is currently considering a proposal to prohibit the manufacture (including import), processing and distribution in commerce of DCM for all consumer and most commercial paint removal products. Since that agency has not yet issued a final rule in this regard, the CPSC has updated its 1987 statement in various way in an effort to provide more immediate guidance and clarity to industry and consumers regarding the acute hazards associated with using DCM-containing paint strippers while those products remain on the market.