Draft Code of Practice: safe handling of dichloromethane-based paint strippers, preface



Dichloromethane, also known as methylene chloride, was assessed as toxic under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA) based on its potential to cause harm to the environment and to human health. As a result, Environment Canada and Health Canada implemented a Strategic Options Process (1996-1997) that was responsible for gathering relevant technical, scientific and economic information from which recommendations were made on how dichloromethane emissions could be reduced in Canada. All industrial, commercial and consumer applications of dichloromethane were analyzed. Stakeholders from industry, environmental non-governmental organizations and key federal government departments participated in the Strategic Options Process.

Dichloromethane is a versatile solvent used in a wide range of industrial processes as well as being the active chemical in paint stripping formulations. Commercial paint stripping applications (i.e. furniture restoration, autobody shops, other) used an estimated 1,400 tonnes of dichloromethane in 1995. This usage resulted in an estimated 1,300 tonnes of dichloromethane evaporation during the paint-stripping process (total dichloromethane emissions from all sources in Canada in 1995 were estimated at 6,300 tonnes). These dichloromethane emissions (from evaporation) can result in workplace exposure as well as exposure to the general public. Commercial paint stripping operations constituted one of the largest source categories of dichloromethane emissions, with furniture restoration facilities representing approximately 70% of the use and release of dichloromethane from this source category. The final report from the Strategic Options Process produced a number of recommendations for the reduction of dichloromethane emissions. One such recommendation is as follows:

Work practices guidelines should be developed by the year 2000 for the safe handling, storage, and use of dichloromethane-based paint strippers in the commercial furniture refinishing and other stripping applications.

It has been suggested that the implementation of good work practices can reduce dichloromethane use and release among commercial paint stripping operations. These work practices have been identified and described in the following Code of Practice. The goal of the Code of Practice is to identify the specific work practices that could be applied to achieve a 20% reduction in the use and release of dichloromethane among commercial paint stripping operations.

This Code of Practice was developed by a multi-stakeholder Technical Working Committee (see Appendix A for the list of Technical Working Committee members), which consisted of industry representatives (i.e. furniture strippers, autobody shops, paint stripper formulators, solvent recovery firms), government personnel and environmental non-governmental organizations. We gratefully acknowledge the contributions of all participants who assisted in developing this Code of Practice.

Inquiries and comments on this Code of Practice as well as requests for additional copies of the Code should be directed to:

Head, Controls Development Section
National Office of Pollution Prevention
Environment Canada
Place Vincent Massey
351 St. Joseph Blvd., 12th Floor
Hull, Quebec K1A 0H3
Fax: (819) 994-0007


The purpose of this Code of Practice is to provide guidance for commercial paint stripping operations regarding activities that can serve to reduce emissions of dichloromethane into the environment. Although some training may be required, the owner/operator may attain several benefits by implementing the Code, for instance:

Applying many of the work practices outlined in this Code of Practice to non-dichloromethane-based paint strippers or other chemicals, will also achieve several of the benefits described above.

The work practices outlined below may not apply to all circumstances, therefore individual facilities should determine which of the practices are most appropriate to their unique situation.

This Code of Practice is divided into two parts. Specifically, separate Codes have been developed for:

Part 1: Commercial Furniture Restoration Facilities; and

Part 2: Miscellaneous Commercial Paint Stripping Facilities

The specific end-use sectors discussed in Part 2 of the Code of Practice are: (i) metal parts paint strippers; (ii) autobody shops; and (iii) building restorers. Several of the work practices identified in the Code or Practice may apply to entities in other sectors, not identified above, that provide commercial paint stripping services.

Unless otherwise indicated, all references to paint strippers in the Code of Practice refer to dichloromethane-based paint strippers.

1 Canadian Environmental Protection Act, Priority Substances List Assessment Report: Dichloromethane, Minister of Supply and Services Canada 1993.

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