Skip to content


Used By Many In Everyday Home DIY Projects—Methylene Chloride—Is So Dangerous That Once You Smell, You’ve Already Been Overexposed; EPA Won’t Finalize Ban As Chemical Lobby Fights To Keep Known-Carcinogen On Shelves Even As Some Stores Say They’ll Remove It 

Little Track Data Exists On Those Sickened, But Chemical Has Sickened & Killed NY’ers Before; With Winter Coming, More DIY Indoor Projects Will Begin & Only A Total Ban Will Snuff Out This Chemical, Especially Online

Schumer To EPA: DIY Should Not Mean RIP

In a warning to all Do-It-Yourself (DIY) types across Long Island gearing up for indoor winter projects, U.S. Senator Charles Schumer is sounding the alarm on a home improvement chemical that might get the job done, but can also make you incredibly sick--or even worse-- cause death. The chemical, methylene chloride, is used for simple projects in the home and bathroom. But while the feds have admitted the dangers in a plan to ban the product from store shelves and online, the federal Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) is now slow-walking the process and endangering people who may have no clue just how dangerous this chemical really is—until they’ve been exposed, sickened or worse. Senator Schumer, along with Senator Carper, Ranking Member on the Environment and Public Works Committee, strongly urged the EPA to finalize the ban of methylene chloride immediately.

“It is shocking to think that a chemical and product that has made people really sick, even caused deaths, is available for sale in everyday stores and online while the federal government sits back and presses pause on a plan to remove it from the marketplace,” said U.S. Senator Charles Schumer. “That is why I am sounding the alarm today for all DIY-types across Long Island who have the know-how to get everyday home improvement projects done, but might not know the risk they’re taking when opening the can and breathing in the fumes. And with winter on the way, and more indoor projects being undertaken, now is the time to bluntly ask the feds to do their job and implement the methylene chloride ban that is already in place and ready to go. Whether you acquire a methylene chloride product from a Long Island shelf or an internet signal, one thing’s for sure: it’s dangerous, the feds know it, and it should be removed from the marketplace. DIY should not have to risk RIP."

“In May of this year, I welcomed EPA’s announcement that it intended to finalize a ban on methylene chloride. But seven months have come and gone and a ban has yet to be finalized on a chemical so dangerous that it is killing unsuspecting Americans who pick it up at the hardware store,” said Senator Carper, Ranking Member on the Environment and Public Works Committee. “Congress passed TSCA reform in 2016 with overwhelming bipartisan and stakeholder support. Despite that clear and definitive mandate, the Trump Administration cannot even manage to finalize the ban of a chemical so harmful to human health that stores have voluntarily taken it off their shelves. There is absolutely no excuse for this delay.”

“The public deserves an EPA that prioritizes public health protection,  complacency is not a public health policy we should accept.  Banning chemicals that make us sick shouldn’t be debated, it should be expedited.  Thank you to Senator Schumer for caring about our health,” said Adrienne Esposito, Executive Director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment 

While some stores have phased out or have committed to voluntarily remove the methylene chloride product from shelves, products remain in some stores across Long Island right now and, of course, are online for sale. Schumer and Carper contend only a total ban will neutralize the public safety risk. Schumer, today, urged the federal EPA to follow the direction of some stores and make 2019 the year in which a total ban is declared.   

Methylene chloride is a chemical often found in paint strippers/thinners, polyurethane foam manufacturing, and in cleaning and degreasing work activities. The chemical is known to reduce blood’s oxygen carrying capacity, thus affecting the brain and nervous system’s function which can result in asphyxiation and/or heart attack. People exposed to methylene chloride can present symptoms including dizziness, headache, and/or nausea. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), “employees exposed to methylene chloride are at increased risk of developing cancer, adverse effects on the heart, central nervous system and liver, and skin or eye irritation.” Furthermore, people may be exposed to methylene chloride through inhalation, absorption through the skin, or through contact with the skin. 

Schumer explained that aside from many dangerous exposures that have gripped the Long Island and Westchester areas, there have been three deaths in New York City since 2000. Most recently in 2014, a man by the name of Jeffrey Lewis died at the age of 20 “while helping his father refinish a hotel bathtub for a job assignment while the father worked in another room; the paint stripper was 88 percent methylene chloride.” In 2010, a bathtub refinisher in Brooklyn died at the age of 31 “while using a paint stripper on a bathtub for a job assignment.” Lastly, in 2000, a bathtub refinisher in NYC died at age 39 “while stripping and re-glazing a bathtub for a job assignment in an apartment; he was overcome by the vapors from a paint stripper that was at least 70 percent methylene chloride.” The number of deaths from methylene chloride does not stop here; Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families have found that “at least 64 people have died from acute exposure to methylene chloride since 1980” and they documented each of these deaths in an interactive map that can be found here.

Schumer detailed the brands in which methylene chloride can be found as an ingredient. Some brand names that contain the chemical include Klean Strip, Goof Off and Jasco, many of them made by W.M. Barr in Memphis, Tenn. A full list of brands that contain methylene chloride can be found here. The chemical is also available, right now in some hardware stores. It is important to note that some stores have committed to removing products that contain methylene chloride from their shelves in 2019. But Schumer says until a total ban is declared by the EPA, the risk remains, especially with online purchases.

Despite the fact that less data is kept on methylene chloride exposures compared to other chemicals, there have been many documented cases of dangerous methylene chloride exposures in the past few years. According to the New York City Poison Center, there have been 168 methylene chloride exposures since 2000 between NYC, Long Island, and Westchester. Furthermore, 28 of the 168 exposures have occurred from 2016 to the present. In 2018, there have been 11 reported cases of methylene chloride exposure; in 2017, there were 10 cases; and in 2016, there were 7 cases, all within the NYC, Long Island, and Westchester areas. There have also been several cases of methylene chloride exposure in the Upstate region of New York. According to Upstate New York Poison Center, there were 3 cases of methylene chloride exposure in 2018, 2 cases in 2017, and one case in 2016.

Methylene Chloride dangerous exposure data (2016-2018) provided by Upstate New York and New York City Poison Centers:

 Dangerous Exposures

NYC, Long Island, & Westchester









Schumer explained that exposure to methylene chloride can result in a wide range of symptoms. According to Upstate New York and New York City Poison Centers, people exposed to methylene chloride have experienced headaches, oral/throat/ocular irritation, nausea, and light headedness, or worse.

As Schumer noted, the EPA has long been aware of the risks methylene chloride poses to consumers. In 2014, the EPA addressed the paint stripping uses in its risk assessment. In January 2017, the EPA took action and proposed a ban on the chemical which would prohibit the consumer and commercial paint stripping uses for methylene chloride; however, that ban has not yet been finalized. The EPA has not taken sufficient action against this dangerous and deadly chemical and has only reported that it is working to finalize the methylene chloride rulemaking ‘shortly.’ Schumer is urging the feds to finalize the ban of methylene chloride across the marketplace and online so consumers can safely partake in work activities and home improvement projects without potentially succumbing to injuries caused by methylene chloride exposure. 

A copy of Senator Schumer and Senator Carper’s original letter to the EPA can be found here.