Have you ever wondered what is Dichloromethane? Well, it is an inorganic liquid chemical solvent which is clear and colourless. It goes under a number of different names including Methylene Chloride, Methylene Dichloride, DCM, Solmethine, Di-clo and has the molecular formula CH2Cl2. It has a sweet, Chloroform-like aroma and has many uses, especially in chemical processes as it is able to dissolve many organic compounds. Dichloromethane was first discovered by Frenchman Henri Victor Regnault in 1840.
DCM is widely used in chemical manufacture both as a solvent and cleaning agent. It is used in a diverse range of industries such as metals and plastics, electronics, pesticides and textiles. It is used as a degreasing agent for citrus fruits, as a fumigant for grains and strawberries, as a heat transfer agent in refrigeration, as an anaesthetic in pharmaceuticals and in the extraction of spices, hops and fats. It is also used to decaffeinate tea leaves and coffee beans. It is used in photographic film manufacturing, metal degreasing, aerosol sprays and Polyurethane foam production.
Dichloromethane is widely found in paint removal products although from December 2011 paint strippers containing concentrations of 0.1% or higher DCM will no longer be available for commercial or domestic use in EU Member States. This follows a number of concerns about the substance and its safe handling. Existing stocks can be used until December 2012.
Methylene Chloride is classified as a Neurotoxin and tests have proven that it can cause harm to the brain and the central nervous system. It is classified as Highly Toxic if swallowed and Slightly Toxic if inhaled. It is classified as a probable Carcinogen by the WHO (World Health Organisation) and children are particularly susceptible to its adverse effects. Although it is proven that DCM can cross the placenta in pregnant women, foetal damage is as yet unproven. However, DCM is linked to cancer of the pancreas, liver and lungs.
If you are planning to work with Dichloromethane you should take precautions to protect yourself and those around you. Always read the MSDS provided by your Dichloromethane supplier BEFORE COMMENCING WORK and wear appropriate protective clothing. Avoid inhalation and accidental splashes. Always wear goggles and Neoprene safety gloves and work in a well-ventilated area or under fume extraction if possible. Although non-Flammable, DCM is highly volatile. Containers should be stored separately in a cool, dry area.