(WHTM) Back on this day in 1986, we did this story about methylene chloride in coffee. Thirty-seven years later, it’s still an issue.
Methylene Chloride, also known as Dichloromethane and Methane dichloride, is used in many industries for things like paint removal, degreasing, cleaning, and manufacturing – including decaffeinating coffee beans before roasting.
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Over the years, concern about the effects of DCM (as it’s sometimes abbreviated) has grown. The Centers for Disease Control states that the chemical “can harm the eyes, skin, liver, and heart. Exposure can cause drowsiness, dizziness, numbness and tingling limbs, and nausea. It may cause cancer. Severe exposure can cause loss of consciousness and death. Workers may be harmed from exposure to methylene chloride. The level of exposure depends upon the dose, duration, and work being done.”
Coffee decaffeinated using any sort of chemical solvent must meet standards set in the Food and Drug Administration’s Code of Federal Regulations (Title 21). This states the chemical residue from the solvent in the coffee cannot exceed 10 parts per million, or one-thousandth of a percent (.001%).
(In case you’re wondering, yes, there are processes for decaffeinating coffee that don’t involve toxic chemicals.)
But many say any exposure to DCM is dangerous. In 2019 the EPA banned the use of methylene chloride in paint removers, and on April 20, 2023, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed a ban on all consumer and most industrial/commercial uses of methylene chloride to protect public health. Comments on the proposed ban were accepted up to July 3. Most of the changes proposed in the rule would be fully implemented in 15 months after the rule is finalized.