6 July 2004


The National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme - NICNAS has released an alert on methylene chloride, which stresses the need for caution when using the chemical in paint stripping.

Methylene chloride is a highly volatile solvent and is widely used in paint stripping, adhesives, cold tank metal degreasing, urethane foam manufacturing, print developing, aerosol products and as a process solvent in the chemical and pharmaceutical industries.

The NICNAS alert details how to use methylene chloride safely for paint stripping. The use of a less hazardous product or a different method of stripping paint is recommended. When this is not practicable, engineering controls and safe work practices can also reduce exposure. Workers should not work alone when methylene chloride is used in open tanks for paint stripping.

Inhaling high levels of methylene chloride vapour can cause dizziness, headache, drowsiness, poor coordination, loss of consciousness and death. Two workplace deaths in Victoria and New South Wales occurred in 2003 when methylene chloride was used in open tanks for stripping paint from furniture. Very high levels of methylene chloride vapour were found in the air immediately above the open tanks.

Methylene chloride is a hazardous substance and is listed in the National Occupational Health and Safety Commission (ASCC) List of Designated Hazardous Substances. Methylene chloride is classified as a Schedule 5 poison under the Standard for the Uniform Scheduling of Drugs and Poisons and in Class 6.1- Toxic substances, Packing Group III under the Australian Dangerous Goods Code with a UN Number of 1593.

Further information, including NICNAS Alert 3 on methylene chloride and NICNAS Information Sheet on methylene chloride (which summarises health and safety information for the chemical), can be found at: www.nicnas.gov.au


The National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme (NICNAS) operates under the Commonwealth Industrial Chemicals (Notification and Assessment) Act 1989.

NICNAS is a statutory scheme within the portfolio of the Minister for Health and Ageing. Its approach to the scientific assessment of chemicals covers toxicity, exposure and use to assess the environmental, public health and occupational health and safety risk. For more information see the web site www.nicnas.gov.au

Further information

Nick Miller, NICNAS, (02) 8577 8810 or 0407 228 285