Conservation DistList Archives [Date] [Subject] [Author] [SEARCH]

Subject: Proposed ban on dichloromethane (DCM)

Proposed ban on dichloromethane (DCM)

From: Alan Phenix <aphenix<-a>
Date: Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Further to the chain of postings from earlier this summer (Cons
DistList Inst. 22:4; 22:8; 22:9) about a proposed ban, in Europe, on
supply and use of dichloromethane (DCM) in paint strippers, I can
supply some additional details of the current situation, which I
have obtained via the website of the UK's Health and Safety
Executive (HSE).

As I understand it, the present situation is that the European
Commission has made a proposal for a "Decision of the European
Parliament" to amend the Marketing and Use Directive (76/769/EEC) to
restrict the sale and use of paint strippers containing
dichloromethane (DCM) to consumers and professional users. This is
currently under negotiation in the Parliament and in a Council
Working Group.

In preparing the UK's position on this proposal, the HSE published a
consultation letter which invited comments on how people and
organizations would be affected by the restrictions. The
"heritage/restoration" sector was specifically mentioned as an
important interest-group in this connection. This consultation
process ended on 26 September 2008, but I am not aware that any
findings have yet been published.

The HSE's consultation letter, however, is a helpful document for
explaining the broader situation within the EC.  To quote from the
introductory section: "Paint strippers containing DCM are the most
commonly used chemical paint strippers in the UK and a number of
other EU countries. However, concerns have been expressed by some
Member States about the number of fatal and non-fatal accidents
involving the use and misuse of these substances."

But, the HSE letter adds, "Views of Member States are polarised on
this issue, with no consensus. Because of doubts over the safety of
alternatives, HSE believes that there is no evidence that the
restriction on the use of DCM-based paint strippers would lead to a
reduction in the fatality and injury rate."

The European Commission's proposal on DCM does not, however,
represent a complete ban on the use of this solvent.  While the EC
is proposing to prohibit the supply of DCM-based paint strippers to
the general public and to professional users, individual Member
States would, as a compromise, be allowed on an individual basis to
permit the continued use of these paint strippers by professionals,
subject to them obtaining a licence following training in their safe
use. The use of DCM-based paint strippers would be permitted in
industrial installations provided that certain safety conditions
were met (e.g. effective exhaust ventilation or respiratory
protective equipment, enclosed strip tanks and appropriate gloves).

I understand that the 'Decision' of the European parliament is due
is due very shortly (late autumn 2008) and, if adopted, the
restriction on use of DCM would take legal force from 1 June 2009. I
can post more information on this subject, as it emerges.

Alan Phenix
Getty Conservation Institute,
Los Angeles

                  Conservation DistList Instance 22:31
                 Distributed: Friday, November 28, 2008
                       Message Id: cdl-22-31-001
Received on Tuesday, 18 November, 2008

[Search all CoOL documents]