Group warns vs. paint removers containing methylene chloride
The toxics watchdog group EcoWaste Coalition has warned consumers against the use of paint removers containing chemicals of high concern such as methylene chloride (also known as dichloromethane).
The group issued the warning after monitoring the sale of methylene chloride-containing paint removers, also called paint strippers, in retail stores and online shopping sites.
Dozens have perished in the US due to acute exposure to methylene chloride in paint removers, which can cause dizziness, headache, unconsciousness and death due to central nervous system depression. Exposure to this chemical can irritate the lungs, damage the liver and the kidneys, and affect the nervous system causing memory loss, poor coordination, and decreased thinking ability. Methylene chloride may also cause cancer in humans.
“While other countries have banned the retail distribution and sale of paint removers containing methylene chloride, this dangerous product remains available to Filipino consumers,” observed the EcoWaste Coalition, adding “even trained workers may be at risk of being exposed and harmed by this toxic chemical.”
“We urge the authorities to restrict consumer access to and use of such paint removers, and consider a phase-out target for methylene chloride use in the manufacture of paint removers," the group suggested. "In the meantime, paint removers with methylene chloride should be clearly identified along with a noticeable hazard warning."
To keep paint removers containing methylene chloride out of consumers’ hands, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in November 2019 banned the retail sale or distribution of such products, including in e-commerce sites. The EPA is now proposing to ban methylene chloride for all consumer uses and in most commercial and industrial uses, and create strict workplace controls for the remaining uses to ensure that workers are not harmed by methylene chloride.
The European Union banned the sale in 2011 of paint removers containing methylene chloride in a concentration equal to or greater than 0.1% by weight to the general public or to professionals, and eventually stopped its use by professionals after June 2012.
The EcoWaste Coalition has already reached out to the Philippine Association of Paint Manufacturers (PAPM) apprising them of the regulatory developments, particularly in the US, and encouraging their member companies to switch to safer alternatives for methylene chloride in paint removing products if they have not yet done so.
As for safety tips, the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has come up with the following reminders for users of paint strippers:
1. Always read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions and safety precautions on the label.
2. Wear chemical-resistant gloves appropriate to the type of stripper being used.
3. Avoid getting the paint stripper on your skin or in your eyes.
4. Use paint strippers outdoors, if possible.
5. Do not use flammable paint strippers near any source of sparks, flame, or high heat.
6. Only strip paint with chemicals that are marketed as paint strippers.
7. Dispose of paint strippers according to the instructions on the label.
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