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OSHA's recent review of the agency's methylene chloride standard indicates the standard is succeeding in protecting workers from the effects of methylene chloride exposure such as respiratory and central nervous system failure and cancer.
The review clearly showed that the standard has been effective in saving lives. The study estimates that each year the standard protects as many as 30,000 to 54,000 workers from damage to their respiratory and nervous systems and prevents approximately 34 deaths from cancer and other illnesses caused by methylene chloride exposure. The agency concluded that these estimates resulted from the lowered permissible exposure limit required in the final methylene chloride standard published in January 1997. This standard's success reflects the overall importance of OSHA standards in protecting workers' safety and health.
OSHA conducted the review as required in the Regulatory Flexibility Act and Executive Order 12866. Part of the review involved requesting and evaluating public comments on the standard's effectiveness. Results of the review showed the risks of developing and dying from cancer and respiratory health issues still exist and require a continuation of the methylene chloride standard. The standard did not cause a burden to small businesses and industry in general, and the costs for putting the standard into practice were considered essential to protecting workers' health. Comments also indicated that employers understood the standard and were able to apply the requirements without causing disruptions in work products or services.
Methylene chloride is a volatile, colorless liquid with a chloroform-like odor. It is used in various industrial processes, and in many different industries including paint stripping, pharmaceutical manufacturing, paint remover manufacturing, and metal cleaning and degreasing.
Visit OSHA's Safety and Health Topics page on Methylene Chloride for more information on reducing methylene chloride exposure.