Preventing Occupational Exposure Risks to Methylene Chloride
The American Board of Industrial Hygiene® (ABIH®) reminds workers and industry of the need to protect employees from exposure to hazardous materials.
Lansing, MI -- Methylene chloride, also known as dichloromethane, is a volatile, colorless liquid with a chloroform-like odor. The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) reports that the chemical compound is used in various industrial processes, in numerous industries. These include paint stripping, pharmaceutical manufacturing, paint remover manufacturing, and metal cleaning and degreasing.
The most common occupational route of exposure to methylene chloride is through inhalation and skin exposure. OSHA considers methylene chloride to be a potential occupational carcinogen and the World Health Organization (WHO) has determined that it may cause cancer in humans.
A few years ago, OSHA and NIOSH published the hazard alert Methylene Chloride Hazards for Bathtub Refinishers. The document states that if workers can smell methylene chloride, they are being overexposed, because methylene chloride cannot be perceived by the faculty of smell until the levels in the air are higher than OSHA's permissible exposure limits (PELs). However, the human body can quickly become desensitized to the smell of methylene chloride, and workers may be overexposed even if they can no longer smell it.
“Exposure to methylene chloride can affect brain functions and at high enough levels, can stop breathing,” said David Roskelley, CIH® and Chair of ABIH®. “The specific effects of exposure can vary depending on various factors. These may include the amount of methylene chloride the worker is exposed to, how long the exposure lasts, and whether the worker has a higher susceptibility due to other conditions. Workers exposed to high levels have died, so it’s imperative for them to be protected.”
Certified Industrial Hygienists are uniquely qualified to monitor exposure risks and implement workplace health and safety programs to protect workers and keep companies in regulatory compliance. CIHs are trained in risks assessments; air sampling and instrumentational analysis; chemical and biohazards; engineering controls and ventilation; health risk analysis and hazard communication; and work environments and industrial processes. This knowledge, and the proper use of personal protective equipment, can be instrumental in reducing exposure risks to methylene chloride and a wide range of other potential workplace hazards.
To learn more about the American Board of Industrial Hygiene®, Certified Industrial Hygienist® credential or to locate a CIH® to perform industrial hygiene services, please visit www.ABIH.org, email abih@ABIH.org or call (517) 321-2638.