Dichloromethane is also known as Methylene Chloride or MC for short, Methylene Dichloride, Methylene Bichloride, Methane Dichloride and DCM. It has a chemical formula of CH2 Cl2. Dichloromethane is a sweet smelling, colourless liquid and is used as a solvent.
Dichloromethane is a volatile substance and is able to dissolve a wide range of organic compounds which makes it very useful as a solvent for a number of chemical processes. However, there are concerns about its potential hazardous effect on health and alternative substances are being sought for many such applications.
Dichloromethane is used as a solvent in paint stripping and degreasing activities. In the food industry, Dichloromethane has a number of uses including decaffeinating tea and coffee. Dichloromethane is also used to prepare hops and flavourings for a number of food products.
Dichloromethane is used as a propellant in aerosol sprays, due to its volatility. It is also used as a blowing agent in polyurethane foam products. Dichloromethane is used to weld some plastics, including the seals of electricity meters. It is also used in a number of handicrafts, such as plastic model building, where it readily joins plastic components together.
The textile industry uses quantities of Dichloromethane to remove heat-sealed badges and logos from garments, without damaging the fabric.
Dichloromethane presents a number of potential hazards to the user. It is Harmful if swallowed, inhaled or absorbed through the skin and may affect the cardiovascular system, the blood, the liver and the central nervous system. Accidental contact with skin, eyes and respiratory tract causes irritation. Dichloromethane is a suspected cancer hazard, with the risk of developing cancer being dependent on the level and duration of exposure.
Inhalation of Dichloromethane fumes causes mental confusion, light-headedness, fatigue, nausea, vomiting and headache. Prolonged inhalation of fumes can result in death. Prolonged contact with the skin can result in burns as it is strongly degreasing and removes natural protective oils from the skin.
As when handling any chemical substances, care must be taken when handling or working with Dichloromethane. Operators should familiarise themselves thoroughly with potential hazards of the material, including what actions to take in the event of a spillage or emergency. The products will supplied with a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) giving such advice and this information should be read and understood before handling.
Containers of Dichloromethane should be stored in a dry, cool place, away from sources of heat or ignition and away from combustible materials. Outside storage of this product is recommended and operators should be aware that containers of this product may still be hazardous when empty, as they may contain product residues in the form of vapours and liquids.