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Assessment of Safer and Effective Alternatives to Methylene Chloride for Paint Stripping Products

Methylene chloride is a widely used component in paint stripping products. The three major categories of use are industrial (e.g., in a permanent stationary technical installation), professional (e.g., by a tradesman), and consumer (e.g., by a homeowner for do it yourself activities) [1]. Methylene chloride is highly volatile and the primary route of exposure is inhalation. Numerous occupational and consumer deaths during paint stripping operations have resulted from acute methylene chloride poisoning, with 56 reported accidental exposure deaths linked to methylene chloride since 1980 [2]. Methylene chloride can cause acute and chronic effects on the central nervous system. The inhalation of methylene chloride can result in short-term effects such as dizziness, clumsiness, headache, nausea, and numbness of fingers and toes, and long-term effects such as loss of concentration, memory loss, and personality changes [3]. Further, methylene chloride is classified as "reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen" by the U.S. National Toxicology Program [4]. Consequently, there is increasing demand for paint stripping products that do not contain methylene chloride.

Several commercially available paint stripping products do not contain methylene chloride; however, their performance is significantly below that of methylene chloride. In addition, , some of the replacement chemicals, such as N-Methyl-2-Pyrrolidone (NMP), introduce other environmental, health, and safety hazards. The Toxics Use Reduction Institute (TURI) at the University of Massachusetts Lowell (UMass Lowell) undertook a research effort to identify and evaluate safer alternatives to methylene chloride in paint stripping products. 

This report provides the approach TURI took to finding a safer alternative to methylene chloride, the laboratory testing process, and the results and conclusions.