Key findings from our solvents investigation
- Methylene chloride, common in paint strippers, can asphyxiate users or trigger a heart attack if its fumes accumulate. A Center for Public Integrity analysis identified at least 56 accidental exposure deaths linked to the chemical since 1980.
- The European Union pulled methylene chloride paint strippers from general use in 2011. U.S. agencies have neither banned the product nor required better warnings, despite decades of evidence about the dangers — though the Environmental Protection Agency is now considering regulation.
- Industry is lobbying against a potential EPA rule for methylene chloride paint strippers, saying the chemical is well-regulated and the most effective way to remove paint. Proper use of the product, the Halogenated Solvents Industry Alliance says, is the key to avoiding death.
- The 56 victims of methylene chloride since 1980 include teenagers on the job, a mother of four, workers nearing retirement and an 80-year-old man.
- Methylene chloride is an example of how products that pose major risks remain on retail shelves. Too often, according to a former commissioner with the Consumer Product Safety Commission, companies don’t prioritize safety and regulators don’t force the point.