Dichloromethane paint stripping in the European Union


How the EU preferentially supports the large industry against innovative SMEs
For some time, dichloromethane paint stripping has been one central topic of discussion for the ‘Commission Working Group on Restrictions on the Marketing and Use of Dangerous Substances and Preparations ”, but only when EASCR got involved, the facts were recognized and a proposal was finalized to improve the safety in this industry.


Methylene chloride: Advantages and Drawbacks of Possible Market Restrictions in the EU
Client: DG III of the European Commission, Brussels, Belgium
Date: November 1999
Authors: Dr. A. Tucker and Ir. L. Ph. Simons (TNO-STB, Holland) : Link
This report (136 pages) describes exposure and risks of DCM in paint strippers, adhesives and aerosols. - Despite a total use of 45,000 tons of DCM paint strippers in the EU, there are only 150-180 people involved in their production (p.65) - Alternative paint strippers can easily be produced on the same production lines as DCM paint strippers, with very little modification (p. 65) - Interviewed professional users don‘t foresee major problems should DCM be banned (p. 62).


Opinion of the Scientific Committee (CSTEE) on TNO Report Methylene chloride: Advantages and Drawbacks of Possible Market Restrictions in the EU.
Opinion adopted at the 17th CSTEE plenary meeting, Brussels, 5 September 2000 : Link
The committee accepted the risk calculation in the report with the exception of the cancer risks which are unjustifiably ignored. In regard to cancer risks from long-term exposure of workers, linear extrapolation from the above limit to the least stringent European TWA (350 mg/m3) leads, after correction for exposure for 8h/day, 5days/week, 44weeks/year and 35working years/life time, to a calculated cancer risk of about 1.5 x 10-2. The report was regarded as of reasonable quality with 7 mentioned deficiencies which all relate to health risks and environmental impact of DCM.

EASCR conclusion:
Above data and conclusions did not lead to any new regulation. A new study was launched instead with the main intention of showing that vapor retarded DCM paint strippers are safe to use and a restriction is not necessary. Alternative paint strippers have not been regarded as an option by the Commission Working Group and representatives of alternative paint stripper producers have been excluded from all discussions and activities. Continuously the impression has been given (without proof) that certain alternative solvents might be more hazardous than DCM.


Effectiveness of vapor retardants in reducing risks to human health from paint strippers containing dichloromethane.
Client: DG III of the European Commission, Brussels, Belgium.
Date: 1 April 2004
Authors: ETVAREAD – Expert Team for Vapor Retarding Additives (BiPRO GmbH in Munich, Germany. Dr. Reinhard Joas)
: Link
EASCR conclusion:
This report (of 100 pages) only studied the emissions of DCM paint strippers, with and without vapor retardants, whereas the initial ‘tender document’ also requested a comparison with other paint strippers (30% of the study). EASCR members sought contact with the project leader of the Commission and provided Dr. Joas from Bipro with data and information on alternative paint strippers. Neither did the EASCR members receive any feedback, nor were they invited to attend during presentation and discussion of their products. As a result, they found themselves being misrepresented in the final report.


Opinion of the Scientific Committee on Health and Environmental Risks (SCHER) on ETVAREAD Final Report 1 April 2004: Effectiveness of vapor retardants in reducing risks to human health from paint strippers containing dichloromethane.
Opinion adopted during the 4th plenary of 18 March 2005 : Link

EASCR conclusion:
SCHER’s opinion on the ETVAREAD report was very critical of the quality of the measurements and the data presented, whilst they also commented that there is no evidence of a reducing effect of vapor retardants (p. 4). In all tests, the acute exposure concentration of 193 and 300 ppm DCM in air were exceeded, in most cases with concentrations between 400 and 1700 ppm, with an air exchange rate of 4, which is also higher than normal (p. 4). SCHER points out that the greatest effect from short term inhalation exposure to DCM seems to be on the CNS (central nervous system), and 193 and 300 ppm DCM in air gave neurobehavioral changes in humans after 1.5 to 3 hours (p. 6, 8 + 9).

EASCR activity:
In a letter to the Scientific Committee, and the desk officer, EASCR expressed its concern about how the products of our members are misrepresented in the ETVAREAD study, and the fact that information by EASCR was used on a selective basis.
EASCR is still waiting for a response!
Date: 5 May 2005
Link: EASCR letter


Letter of the Danish Paint Makers’ Association to the European Commission on their production stop of DCM paint strippers

Date:8 March 2002
As early as 1994, the Danish Paint Makers Industry entered into a voluntary agreement to neither sell nor import paint strippers containing dichloromethane. The decision was made because it was the Association’s view that, as an industry, one must take responsibility for the products one is selling – in this case primarily to private users as the Danish MAL code system had already prevented professional users from using this kind of product.


EASCR conclusion:
Even in 2006, the EU Commission seems still to be of the opinion that DCM paint strippers are a subject of debate mainly between UK and Germany, whereby the UK and its industry strongly supports DCM paint removers as safe for private and professional users and Germany is seen as the principle opponent. EASCR wonders why those member states, which have already let their position be known, seem to have been forgotten. In the above, we have the example of the Danish industry taking responsibility for its decisions, based on the knowledge they have acquired on the applications and the products used.

Working Document for a Proposal for a “Directive 200x/xx/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of (…) amending, for the twenty-sixth time, Council Directive 76/769/EEC on the approximation of the laws, regulations and administrative provisions of the Member States relating to restrictions on the marketing and use of certain dangerous substances and preparations
Date: 15 April 2002
Following the results of the TNO report and the critical opinion of CSTEE, the Commission drafted a restriction on DCM paint stripping after 18 months that includes: Link
Top (5) – An assessment of the risks to health from dichloromethane (DCM) identified a need for reducing risks. In its opinion of 5 September 2000, the Scientific Committee on Toxicity, Ecotoxicity and the Environment (CSTEE) confirmed the conclusions of the assessment and the need to reduce risks to health.
Top (6) - In order to protect health, the market availability and use of DCM in formulations used for paint strippers should be prohibited.
In the Annex a restriction proposal is formulated:
Dichloromethane CAS No. 75-09-2 may not be made available on the market or used as a substance, or constituent of preparations in a concentration equal or higher than 1,0% by mass, in paint strippers or products used in the cleaning of facades 13.

EASCR conclusion:
It is obvious that until this point of time there was a clear path forward. DCM paint stripping caused concern and was therefore included in the Council Directive 76/769/EEC. The TNO report studied the health risk and main applications of DCM and the ability to replace it with alternative substances or technologies. CSTEE confirmed the conclusions and proposals to be reasonable, but warned that the health risk of DCM paint strippers is still ignored and underestimated. Consequently the Commission workgroup developed a restriction proposal as above but one can see very clear the influence of the DCM lobby and how they have managed to protect their business and interest:

The comments from individual member states allow a comparison with their present point of view:

It would have been preferable if the Commission had paid some attention to alternatives, instead of trying to behave as if alternatives were not a viable option. Their validity is illustrated by certain member states, which have already proven with their national restrictions that paint stripping can also be done without DCM.


Forum Paint Stripping Agents in Brussels (14 November 2005)

On 29 May 2005, at the meeting of the ‘Commission Working Group on Restrictions on the Marketing and Use of Dangerous Substances and Preparations’ in Brussels, several member states requested that a forum on paint stripping be held, and that producers of alternative paint strippers should be invited to present their technologies.

  1. On letters dated 29 July 2005, the EU Commission sent an open invitation to attend a forum entitled ‘Paint Stripping Agents’ on 18 October 2005 in Brussels.
  2. With an e-mail, dated 16 September 2005, the EU Commission cancelled the forum due to a lack of suitable meeting rooms and set a preliminary date for 15 November 2005.
  3. With a letter posted on the CIRCA page (only available to ministries and ECSA), dated 10 October 2005, the meeting was rescheduled to take place on 14 November 2005. EASCR was not informed and found out about the change by accident.
  4. Two weeks prior to the Forum the request of two EASCR members for own presentations was refused based on their EASCR membership. Following our intervention on the fact that ECSA was privileged with 6 presentations. EASCR’s time slot was increased from 20 to 30 minutes accompanied with the prompt note that the EU Commission cannot have accusations of privileged treatment and for an efficient meeting equal prominence to the different products and firms involved is desired.
  5. The FORUM on 14 November 2005

Click on image to enlarge Click on image to enlarge



Toxicity and Risk of DCM and alternative solvents in paint strippers : Link
Dr. B. Orthen – Toxcicology of hazardous substances
BAuA - Federal Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, Germany
Conclusion: 2 out of 3 alternative solvents offer lower risk level than DCM.

Comparison Test on the Stripping Performance, Effectiveness and Speed on Different Coating Types between DCM and DCM-free Paint Strippers : Link
Dr. R. Rühl – for many years Chairman of the German working group TRGS 612 of the Committee of Hazardous Substances
BauBG – Industry Insurance for the Construction Industry, Germany
Conclusion: Every coating that can be removed with a DCM paint stripper, can also be removed using a DCM-free paint stripper.

Dibasic Esters : Link
Dr. G. G. Altnau – Chairman EASCR
Content: DBE production, properties, hazard potential and performance in paint strippers.

Formulation of Alternative Paint strippers : Link
G. Scheidel – Managing Director of Scheidel GmbH & Co KG, Germany
Content: Composition, Description of functionality, Performance and effectiveness of different alternative paint strippers.

Eco Solutions Technology : Link
I. Chivers – Director Eco Solutions Ltd, UK
Content: History, Industry reaction, case study, present status.


EASCR observations and conclusions:


Meeting of the Working Group relating to Directive 76/769/EEC (15 February 2006)

The Commission summarized the outcome of its Forum meeting, held in November 2005, by listing the advantages of DCM paint strippers, whilst stating that alternative products can be both flammable and inhaled. It concluded that only Germany and Great Britain have differences of opinion regarding the danger of DCM paint strippers and the effectiveness of alternatives.
UK, Ireland, Malta, Poland and Slovenia are against any restrictions on the sale of DCM paint strippers and believe their risks to be well understood and adequately controlled. Reasons for this are that such paint strippers are mainly sold to the consumer DIY market, and the belief is that better education at nursery-school level (Slovenia) is a preferred option to alternative products.
Malta is a strong supporter of DCM-based products due their wide use in the country, and expressed its concern that paint strippers could be lost as a “waste outlet for DCM” for the pharmaceutical industry.
The Netherlands, Germany, Austria, France, Denmark and Sweden are in favor of a limitation on DCM products stressing fatalities, which have mainly occurred in the professional area. In Sweden they have been banned since 1990. Finland would only support a ban on consumer-usage.
The Commission emphasized that there is no clear majority opinion, and that further studies and internal discussions would be required. No quick decision should be expected.

EASCR observations and conclusions:

- EASCR was yet again not invited to attend the Working Group meeting. Until present, the producers of alternative paint strippers (to DCM) have been successively excluded from those discussions, whilst any information on alternative products has been typically requested from and provided by the DCM paint stripper producers themselves. The above summary is based on the minutes of the Work Group.
- The Leader’s Office of the Liberals in Brussels has urged CEFIC several times to ensure that our members also attend, but it appears that CEFIC is strongly resisting the opportunity for a balanced discussion.
- EASCR has considerable doubts over the accuracy of the Commission’s summary of the outcome of the Forum. When the Commission circulated their draft minutes from the Forum, three alternative paint stripper presenters and two neutral institutions (BAuA and BG Bau) requested significant corrections on their behalf. Additionally EASCR provided documented evidence that one speaker on DCM paint stripper products made false statements and requested a position and a correction. Despite several reminders this has never been corrected and the only conclusion to be drawn is, that the summary presented at the workgroup’s discussion was still based on incorrect minutes.
- We find it wrong for the Commission to promote the image that it is just the German and British representatives with a difference of opinion at the Forum. This ignores the facts:

that the British side at the Forum was solely represented by DCM industry representatives without any representation from official bodies or institutions
that the BG Bau is a German Industry Insurance for the Construction Industry and the BAuA was represented by a toxicologist of the Federal Institute of Occupational Safety and Health in Germany. Both presented comparative studies based on data and facts and have obviously no interest in selling certain substances or products.
that the INRS is the French National Institute for Investigation and Safety and reported around 10 DCM incidents during the last 10 years, which are all officially registered in their database.

EASCR activity:
In a letter to the Commission, EASCR expressed mounting concerns about the way how SMEs are treated. Corrections from several parties (including neutral, national institutions) to the Commission‘s draft minutes of the Paint Stripper Forum, held in November 2005, were ignored whilst incorrect information which had previously been provided by a DCM presenter was not corrected. Those incorrect minutes were used as the basis for providing information to the Member State representatives during their February 2006 meeting and are also available on the internal CIRCA pages of the EU Commission (accessible only by MS representatives and CEFIC). Alternative paint stripper producers have once again been excluded from the working group meeting so that DCM supporters could be certain that there would be no potential for controversy.

EASCR has re-requested the correction of the Forum minutes and for participation in future discussions.

Date: April 7, 2006
EASCR Letter : Link
Outcome: In an e-mail dated 26 July 2006, the corrected Forum minutes were distributed

EASCR observations and conclusions:

Several presenters at the Forum requested corrections to the draft minutes as early as December 2005
The Commission used incorrect minutes to summarize the outcome of the Forum in the February 2006 working group meeting.
Corrections were finally made with a delay of 6 months after all actions and decisions had already been undertaken.
We leave it up to the reader to form an opinion on the behavior or motivation of the EU Commission.


German Ministry for Work and Social Affairs (BMAS) implements restrictions on the use of dichloromethane-based paint strippers- 19 April 2006

Disappointed by the stagnating initiative of the EU Commission to restrict the use of dichloromethane paint strippers, the BMAS intends to take the initiative and launch a national restriction, with the primary objective of accelerating the process in Brussels. The BMAS invited national institutions responsible for the implementation, the Chemical Industry Association (VCI), as well as representatives affected by this measure.

At the meeting BMAS emphasized that this will not be a general restriction on dichloromethane, but a sole restriction of particularly critical open applications, for which, according to the German Committee on Hazardous Substances (AGS), effective replacement products exist. The objective is to create a uniform procedure across the EU.

Representatives of the DCM producing industry confirmed that working with dichloromethane paint strippers is associated with severe occupational health and safety problems. The decorator’s association and other parties are of the opinion that requirements for greater “user awareness” will not be helpful due to practical reasons, whilst increased rigorous control by the enforcement authorities will only have limited success.
As a next step BMAS will prepare a regulation proposal. All further activities will be conducted in accordance with legal requirements and in liaison with all involved parties


Impact Assessment Study on DCM Paint Strippers by RPA Ltd for the EU Commission – 25 July 2006
The British consultant RPA Ltd has been requested to carry out a survey on behalf of DG Enterprise and Industry.
The study is aimed at evaluating the socio-economic impact of potential regulatory measures on dichloromethane-based paint strippers. Its first act was to distribute questionnaires to various stakeholders. Alternative versions of the questionnaires, entitled “Production and Supply of Dichloromethane-free Paint Strippers”, were available for the numerous affected parties from the DG Enterprise webpage http://ec.europa.eu/enterprise/chemicals/studies_en.htm

EASCR observations and conclusions:
EASCR asks itself which industry had originally requested this study, particularly when one considers that the representatives for the alternatives to dichloromethane-based strippers were not involved in this decision. Furthermore, in light of the EU Commission’s recent opinion that this subject is principally an area of debate between the UK and Germany, it is also of interest that a British consultant has been commissioned. We are looking forward to the discussion on the final report on July 3, 2007.


German Ministry for Work and Social Affairs (BMAS) notifies the EU Commission of national restrictions on the use of dichloromethane-based paint strippers – 17 January 2007

Following a hearing held in April 2006, the BMAS once again invited national institutions, the Chemical Industry Association (VCI), as well as representatives of those affected by the intended restriction, to share with them the final draft of the notification, which was then mailed to the EU Commission following the meeting. As its principle content, the Order prohibits the market availability, and the use, of paint strippers and exterior cleaners with a total content by mass of more than 1% dichloromethane. Instances of their being used in, or their availability for the purpose of being used in, closed systems within industrial plants –  whereby employees are not exposed to the substance –  are excluded from the ban. The Order serves to protect employees and private individuals from dangers to their health presented by paint strippers and exterior cleaners containing dichloromethane (filed on CIRCA 30 April 2007).

French Authorities notify the EU Commission to reiterate their support of a ban on stripping agents containing dichloromethane – 18 April 2007

Triggered by a new fatality at a French DCM dip tank station at the beginning of 2007, authorities reminded the EU Commission that they have expressed, on several occasions, their concerns about the professional use of DCM paint strippers. They have taken note that Germany adopted national measures in order to ban the use of stripping and cleaning agents containing more than 1% in mass of dichloromethane and would like to emphasize their interest in taking a similar approach. French authorities expressed a keen interest in the forthcoming report from the RPA consultancy. During the next Limitations Workgroup Meeting, due to be held on 3 July 2007 when the final report from RPA will be presented, French authorities would welcome clear proposals to be put forward by the Commission in order to proceed quickly with the finalization of this dossier on DCM paint stripping.

EASCR comments:
Europe has just experienced a record of 3 DCM paint stripper fatalities within 3 months (UK 21-year old worker on 30 Sep 06; UK dip tank on 27 Oct 06, French dip tank in Jan 07). Two member states are worried and want a proposal from the EU Commission after discussions which have continued since 1999. Three member states already had restrictions in place many years before the debate started. What else is required to create change?


Final Report of Impact Assessment Study on DCM Paint Strippers by RPA Ltd for the EU Commission – April 2007    

The final report of British consultant RPA Ltd has been placed on the home page of DG Enterprise and Industry under “Market restrictions: Link

RPA recommendations:

Prohibition (ban) on all industrial uses of DCM –based paint strippers unless used in strictly controlled conditions (–xx- of Executive Summery)

Total prohibition (ban) on all professional uses of DCM-based paint strippers (–xx- of Executive Summery)

Total prohibition on all consumer uses of DCM-based paint strippers (–xxiii- of Executive Summery)


Meeting of the Working Group relating to Directive 76/769/EEC (3 July 2007)

The chairman opened the meeting by commenting on its record attendance by representatives of both member states and industry, which he interpreted as a reflection of the level of interest in the subject of DCM paint strippers.

He reminded all attendees that Germany had notified the Commission about their intention to introduce a national restriction and that the Commission has 12 months to come up with its own proposal (until February 2008) if it wishes to prevent Germany from adopting its own national regulation.

RPA presented the results of its survey, which concluded with its recommendation to ban the consumer and professional use of DCM paint removers, with the exception of its industrial use if carried out in a closed systems and with strict adherence to all safety procedures.

UK responded first, by disagreeing with the RPA conclusions and not seeing any reason for a ban on DCM paint strippers.
Ireland, Malta and Italy support some restriction but not a ban.
Germany, Denmark, France and Netherlands support the RPA recommendations.
Belgium supports restrictions but would like to get assistance on alternatives from other member states.
Sweden has already restricted DCM as a substance but will find out about its use in paint strippers.
Austria was asked for its opinion as a member state with an existing restriction, however no representative was present to respond.

The chairman summarized that this was indeed the same situation as 3-5 years ago, and there was little opportunity for a majority agreement. EASCR strongly disagreed with this statement, as 3-5 years ago DCM paint stripping was still presented as safe by industry, when today many incidents have been recorded and portray a more realistic picture of the risks involved when paint stripping with DCM. On the other hand, the Commissioner has a high interest in this subject, and expects a proposal developed by the Commission before the end of the year.

EASCR observations and conclusions:
There has been no change in the positions of the individual member states with regards to DCM paint stripping during the last years. A lot of additional data on incidents has been collected in the meantime and RPA provided a comprehensive survey and showed that illegal work by decorators, and their lack of information and education about regulations or exposure limits, are the real issues, especially when it goes in line with the use of such a dangerous substance. It is amazing how some member states still insist on remaining in the present status by ignoring any new information provided and by shutting down their own databases on incidents, thus giving them an even more blinkered view of the future, as well as less competent to collect and analyze incidents in order to improve product and workplace safety.
Link: BBC report on HSE Failures – 27 July 2007
By analyzing the incidents provided to RPA by national poison centres and institutes, EASCR struggles to understand why the RPA disregarded 1 fatal and 541 non-fatal incidents in Europe. This is approximately 9 times more than the recorded incidents before publication of the RPA report.

EASCR decided to carry out its own analysis of the RPA incidents and provided the Commission with its findings and conclusions. We also helped put them into context by correlating them to the sold volumes in an individual member state, thus creating a more genuine impression of the real situation in any particular country. It does not read well!

Date: September 17, 2007
EASCR letter on missed incidents: Link


Meeting of the Working Group relating to Directive 76/769/EEC (3 December 2007)   

The chairman informed the Working Group (WG) that a proposal on restrictions for dichloromethane in paint strippers had been prepared by DG Enterprise and had been submitted for interservice consultation. The proposal is taking into account the results obtained by the studies conducted on behalf of the Commission (COM), the extensive discussions at the last July WG Meeting and a thorough analysis of different options in the Impact Assessment (IA), which had been reviewed by the Impact Assessment Board of COM.

The proposal was a compromise between the diverging positions, both among the authorities and industry. Subject to the agreement of all Directorates-General, the proposal would foresee:

- a general ban of DCM paint removers for consumers

- a general ban for professionals with the possibility for Member States to authorize the use of DCM paint strippers only by licensed professionals.

- wearing of appropriate PPE, appropriate ventilation and safer tanks for industrial use.

However the provisions could still change during the interservice consultation.

EASCR observations and conclusions:

We get the impression that the Commission has the intention to pass a proposal to the Parliament and the Council after more than 10 years discussion. DCM paint removers will be the last case handled by this workgroup before REACH.


Partial ban for paint stripper containing dichloromethane proposed (14 February 2008)    

The European Commission proposed to restrict the sale and use of paint strippers containing dichloromethane. Commission Vice-president Verheugen said: “Our proposal will achieve a high level of protection of human health and will provide an important measure of added safety to consumers and workers”. Interestingly this announcement was made before the next Limitation Workgroup Meeting on 6 March 2008 (when DCM paint stripping was still on the agenda) and EASCR interprets this as the Commission’s unwillingness to deal any longer with delaying tactics of the DCM paint stripper industry,  that have been going on now for more than 10 years. The Commission obviously felt strongly about this matter, as it is thought to be the last proposal to be brought forward before REACH. On 1 June 2009 Directive 76/769/EEC will be replaced by Regulation No 1907/2006 (REACH Regulation). As DCM is classified as carcinogenic category 3, it is not of sufficient priority to be considered under REACH authorization procedure. Therefore, the present proposal aims:

–To ban the use by consumers, who are the least aware of the dangers of DCM, and have limited access to protective equipment

–To ban the use by professionals outside industrial premises, but Member States can opt to allow further use by professionals with adequate training and license to operate

–To increase protection of workers during industrial use of such paint strippers through compulsory use of protective equipment (gloves and masks) as well as the modification of the operational tanks and adequate ventilation at the workplace.

–To avoid further divergent actions by member States which create obstacles to the internal market without benefit for the protection of all European citizens:Link

Graham Watson (Liberal Democrat MEP for the South West of England and Gibraltar – Leader of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe in the European Parliament) stated in his NEWS Release: “I welcome these plans to protect consumers across Europe from this dangerous chemical. It is toxic to the central nervous system and that has been linked to a number of accidents and fatalities. I have been campaigning for this for many years and the Commission’s proposals are a sensible move to safeguard people’s health. Alternatives are available, as developed by West of England company Eco Solutions, so we do not need to use dichloromethane’ News Release: Link

The above restriction proposal was already on the agenda of Meeting of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Safety on 25-27 March 2008 and the Green Party has requested to be appointed Rapporteur, a request that has been accepted.



Complete ban for paint stripper containing dichloromethane adopted by the Environmental Committee of the EU Parliament (9 September 2008)    

Despite strong lobbying of ECSA, the British HSE and supporters in conservative parties against the restriction proposal the ENVI Committee adopted a complete ban for DCM paint strippers for consumer and professional use with a very strong majority: 54 votes in favor, 3 against and 1 abstention. This will now be the base for negotiations with Council for a first reading agreement. HSE lobbying for DCM finally culminated in a “Briefing for UK MEPs” that provided mainly the point of view of the DCM industry, thus catalyzing a Briefing of the German MEPs by the German Federal Ministry for Work and Social Affairs (BMAS) supporting alternative paint strippers. 

Report A06-0241/2008 dated 12 September 2008: Link
This success was only possible through factual information provided by different parties in order to balance sometimes questionable information from the DCM lobby. - German BG Bau, Dr. R. Rühl – Opinion on the position of the United Kingdom (HSE): Link
- EASCR position on the restriction proposal, 30 June 2008: Link
- European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) position on DCM in paint strippers, 2 July 2008: Link
- EASCR position on the position of the United Kingdom (HSE), 4 September 2008: Link
In a first meeting with the Presidency, Rapporteur Carl Schlyter made it very clear that he considered the arguments by the UK to be highly misleading, as they are based on DCM use against the provisions of worker protection legislation (no personal protection equipment accounted for). He was not ready to find compromises to accommodate countries that used completely flawed arguments. He also stated that he had not heard one valid argument in favor of a licensing system as a possibility for a national derogation. He considered such a system to be costly, most likely ineffective and unenforceable. The rapporteur hoped that the vote of the Environmental Committee will help to create a qualified majority in Council for a complete ban of professional use of DCM.

Caroline Lucas MEP highlighted how strong the UK leads in the support of the DCM Lobby and it is questioned how this can be combined with the role of HSE what is the protection of workers as well.

Caroline Lucas MEP: “UK still the dirty man of Europe” – Vote on dichloromethane, PR 9 September 2008: Link



EU Parliament agrees to ban paint strippers containing dichloromethane (14 January  2009)
As expected HSE representing UK continued their strong lobbying and support for the chlorinated solvents industry in the EU Council against the position of the Environmental Committee. A qualified majority of 255 votes is required out of 345 available votes to take a decision in Council. HSE for UK grouped with Poland, Italy, Spain, Ireland, Slovenia and Greece 131 votes and prevented with this blocking minority a support for the agreement in the EU Parliament. This made it very difficult for the Rapporteur especially when proposals for a compromise clearly disregarded Article 6 of Directive 98/24/EC which require substitution where possible before requiring the use of personal protective equipment (PPE). On top it did not even require the use of PPE, but only training with regard to it. In December after long debate the case finally made it to the COREPER  (Permanent Representatives Committee) and UK tried to remove the word “coating” from the regulation text because this would make it only applicable for certain types of coatings. This was strongly refused by the Rapporteur because there are indeed similar coatings to paints, varnishes and lacquers that are also removed with DCM and the use of DCM for removing those will create the same risks and therefore the Rapporteur saw no reason to exempt those from the requirements of the directive and insisted on the wording as proposed by Presidency. At this point HSE for UK finally gave in, may be also because they had no longer sufficient member states for a blocking minority.
On 14 January 2009 the European Parliament has confirmed an agreement with Council to ban the highly hazardous dichloromethane from use in paint strippers. It foresees a blanket EU-wide ban for consumer use, and also a ban for professional use that allows member states to derogate under certain conditions. DCM has long been banned in EU member states like Sweden, Denmark and Austria, but is still used in others. After nearly a decade of fruitless discussion in the Limitations Workgroup influenced by DCM paint stripper producers and ECSA, Germany catalyzed the end of this period with their notification of national restrictions on the use of DCM-based paint strippers in January 2007, followed by a similar move of France in April 2007. Now this regulation was accepted by Parliament with 674 votes and 17 against it, but we should not forget that this result would not have been possible without the engagement of the Rapporteur Carl Schlyter and Advisor Axel Singhofen and the supporters for alternative paint stripping in many ministries and institutions in different member states.
Press release of The Greens “ Dangerous paint stripper finally banned” on 14 January 2009: Link   

Pressemitteilung Bundesministerium für Arbeit und Sorziales (BMAS) „EU Parlament beschließt Verbot  gefährlicher Abbeizmittel“, 19. Januar 2009: Link




Conclusion and Forward Looking Statement:

We have all made a huge step forward towards the use of safer paint removers but we  have definitely not reached  the final goal yet! The use of DCM-based paint strippers can still last for 30 – 36 months because these are the deadlines for adoption into national law. The more safety conscious  member states will do this quickly  but some may never, all depending on the value they place on  workplace safety in their member state. Therefore we will still see incidents with DCM paint removers. In some countries  such as the UK we may see declining numbers of incidents but we will not be able to say whether this is because of increased worker’s awareness or because of discontinued incident databases.

On the other side Germany and France can have a very strong influence on DCM paint stripper incidents if they would ban the use as fast as possible because these two member states alone represent approximately 50-60% of the European market. The next huge potential lies in the UK with approximately 8.000 tons DCM paint strippers annually.   We, EASCR, are interested in watching how  DIY chains in the UK  will position themselves in order to fulfill their responsibilities for their customers. The measure will be when DCM paint strippers have disappeared  from their shelves.


Rules banning DCM in paint strippers to enter force (6 June 2009)    

EU rules banning paint strippers containing dichloromethane (DCM) for consumer use will enter force on Saturday 6 June 2009 following publication in the EU’s official Journal.
Under the rules, products intended to be put on the market for the first time will be banned from 6 December 2010. The ban will apply to all products from 6 December 2011 and applies to paint strippers containing DCM concentrations equal or greater than 0,1% by weight.
Professional uses will be banned from 6 June 2012 but member states can apply for derogations for licensed professionals who will be allowed to use DCM in strippers under strict conditions. The EU Commission will publish a list of countries that have applied for derogations.

The rules on DCM in paint strippers were agreed by EU lawmakers in December and backed up by the European Parliament in January. MEPs had wanted a blanket ban on professional uses but some member states lead by the UK were opposed to this. UK historically always supported and strongly lobbied for the chlorinated solvent industry and used all their influence in the Council to outbalance the decision by the Parliament. Fortunately at the end the blocking minority was melting away and UK had to compromise. One has probably not to be too smart to predict that UK will be the first in the row to apply for derogations for professionals in the UK, which obviously cannot imagine to paint strip without such a dangerous chemical and local journalist will probably continue to argue how HSE will be able to control correct applying of strict conditions of licensed professionals when being considered as understaffed and financially strangled (BBC News – HSE failing to probe accidents - Link - already in 2007.

Decisions adopted jointly by the EU Parliament and the Council / Decision No 455/2009/EC on 6 May 2009 amending Council Directive 76/769/EEC as regards restriction on the marketing and use of dichloromethane.

http://eur-lex.europa.eu/JOHtml.do?uri=OJ:L:2009:137:SOM:EN:HTML or pdf download: Link

Dichloromethane is the last substance to be regulated under the EU’s 1976 directive on limiting the marketing and use of dangerous substances. The directive was officially repealed on June 1, 2009 and its provisions moved into the EU’s REACH regulation. This alone shows how strong and serious all parties were engaged in bringing this DCM paint stripper debate to a safer end for the users, with the exception for those which will continue to be exposed based on derogations by their member states.


Dangerous substances and preparations (dichloromethane) debate on 13 January 2009 in Strasbourg – Link:

According to the rapporteur Carl Schlyter it was a hard way, because during the process, there was always a blocking minority on some issue or another. But at the end a decision was taken and effective June 2012 decorators will have a better chance on safer working places in the EU when it gets to stripping off old paint. In the final debate all parties congratulated Carl Schlyter on his job and obviously there is a broad agreement on DCM being a dangerous substance to work with.

When some are disappointed because it was not possible to agree on a total ban for professional use and hope, that only a small number of member states will continue to use DCM paint strippers, others still continue a debate between Christian Democrats and Liberals.

The future will show what direction the market will take and it will also show how strong the influence of the DCM lobby on certain member states will be, measured at the number of member states which will apply for derogations.


THE FUTURE HAS BEGUN  -  The EU after the DCM Paint Stripper Ban


This Member State (catalyzing the DCM ban development with its intent for a national ban in support to Germany) that stood for approximately 30% of the DCM Paint Stripper consumption and 6 known fatalities in the EU made enormous efforts to introduce a paradigm change in the construction and decorator industry. In order to achieve this, several key players worked together as listed below (to name only a few):

A training program was rolled out in the whole country and continued for several years. The message was that DCM paint strippers are no longer allowed and based on a comparison test with 20 paint strippers it was shown that paint strippers without DCM and NMP are very effective. The training made professionals aware of the different techniques to be used in comparison to DCM. Furthermore it gives guidance on how to chose strippers with low risk based on the hazards described in the safety datasheets. -  Link

A new generation of paint strippers without DCM is introduced and a new classification:

A (inflammable), B (irritant, harmful) and C (no danger). -  Link

In 2015 it seems that DCM paint strippers are no longer a threat in this country and there is no longer a need for.


This Member State historically also consumed approximately 30% of the European DCM strippers (9 fatalities) and was trying for decades to convince the EU Commission to stop the use of this stripping method. With its offensive 2006 initiative to launch a national restriction for DCM strippers (supported by France) the process for the EU Ban (effective 2012) was started. With the ban the work with DCM strippers stopped. Of course the DCM lobby tried to work with national decorator associations to allow for derogations but failed already on county level.

In Spring 2012 a large major decorators association made a survey among their members and collected a clear majority of 60%, which were of the opinion that they no longer need DCM paint strippers for their work.


Of course it is not a surprise that - when many Member States execute a ban without derogation - the HSE continues their strong lobbying and support for the chlorinated solvents industry and prepared early on for derogations, because here  “DCM can be used safely” (quote). Link

Such a statement is theoretically correct but at the same time dependent on the education of the user, his fitness (carrying breathing equipment) and his (or his employer's) willingness to invest into the necessary expensive personal protection equipment.

UK consumed as much DCM strippers as Germany or France did and collected until December 2015 with 11 known fatalities the highest number of fatalities in the EU.

Effective 1. December 2014 a derogation for the marketing and use of DCM paint strippers by professionals came into force in the UK. - Link

The derogation was published on the “REACH Restrictions” section on homepage of the EU Commission  -  Link

Because certain statistics were discontinued (e.g. HASS/LASS (Home and Leisure AccidentSurveillance System discontinued in 200. See Annex E1.23.2 on page E-38 in the Final RPA Report Annex-E) it is more difficult in future to become aware of DCM paint stripping incidents and one is dependent on the press or publications from authorities:.

•        Incident in January 2012:  Link

•        Fatality in August 2011 – published Dec 2015: -  Link

Interestingly the above cases happened at DCM dip-tanks, which are considered as industrial installations and are excluded from the DCM ban.

What conclusion should be drawn from this about this industry and/or the controlling authorities which applied for derogation for paint strippers?



This member state completely ignored the ban on paint strippers containing DCM. Scandia Cosmetics SA for example produces and sells Scansol “Super” or “Strong” (80-90% DCM) via wholesalers to the decorator industry in Poland - Link   

This product is offered via internet platforms like “allegro” -   Link

The existence of technical datasheets in other languages (e.g. Finnish from May 2013) leads to the conclusion that this paint stripper may also be exported and sold by trading partners as mentioned on the datasheet - Link

In September 2015 EASCR informed the EU Commission and asked for clarification and follow up on this potential breach of the ban. -  Link

As result of the follow-up by EASCR via the EU Commission the Polish authorities confirmed in October 2016 that the possibility to place DCM containing paint strippers on the market for professionals will end in Poland on 1 January 2017.
According to the EU Commission Poland obviously availed itself of the derogation without notification to allow DCM to be placed on the market for supply to, and used by, specifically trained professionals. EASCR is not aware of any training or procedures in Poland to control certain requirements.

Polish ordinance to ban DCM paint strippers dated 23 September 2016: Link
The EU Commission has asked for information of the Polish enforcement authorities to verify the situation after the due date.



Effective December 2012 Switzerland (not part of the EU) introduced an updated "Chemical Risk Reduction Ordinance (Chemikalien-Risikoreduktions-Verordnung ChemRRV) in order to bring their rules in line with those of the EU. This includes the ban for the marketing and use of DCM paint strippers in Switzerland effective 1 December 2014. See Annex 2.3 "Solvents" 3 Dichloromethane.  -  Link