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Thousands of chemicals are used every day in industry--and every day we learn more about them. Improved knowledge lets us make better decisions about the specific safety precautions to be used when working around chemicals. Methylene Chloride (CL2Cl2) is one we have learned to use with care.
Methylene Chloride (MC) is a man-made organic solvent that does not occur naturally in the environment. However, it is one of the most common industrial solvents for oils, waxes, resins, and rubber. Processes which use MC include remodeling or renovation operations, metal cleaning, degreasing, and paint stripping.
New safety standards: The health community now believes that increased precautions must be used when working with Methylene Chloride. As a result, the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) has lowered the permissible level of exposure for workers who deal with this chemical. The 8-hour time weighted average PEL (Permissible Exposure Limit) was formerly 500 PPM (500 parts of MC per one-million parts air). The 8-hour PEL is now 25 PPM.
Exposure: Methylene Chloride is a colorless liquid, with a sweet ether-like odor. It easily evaporates in the air, and so this is the most common place the chemical will be found. Being airborne, MC has easy access to the body, through the nose, mouth, lungs and through skin absorption. Depending upon the level of exposure, a variety of minor-to-serious health hazards can occur. Symptoms may include drowsiness, dizziness, headaches, burning of the mouth and throat; and dermatitis through de-fatting of the skin. Significant over-exposures can effect the nervous system, the respiratory system and in extreme cases, can cause death. If Methylene Chloride contacts the skin, intense burning with slight redness to the effected area can occur. In minor cases, these effects stop shortly after the exposure ends.
Take necessary precautions: When work must be completed around or with this chemical, easy responsible steps can be taken for protection. This includes safety planning and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to reduce or avoid the exposure. Recommendations include:
With the lowered PEL for Methylene Chloride, OSHA requires several safety measures when it is used in the workplace. These include exposure monitoring, specified levels of medical surveillance, and Hazard Communication/MSDS training.
Never be careless with chemicals: Chemicals at work and in the home are common today, and their use is often taken for granted. But like any tool, chemicals demand attention for good reasons. Know what chemicals you are using, the hazards involved and the PPE that is required.
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