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Lab News – June 24

Lab News

There has been no mergers & acquisition (M&A) activity in the environmental laboratory space recently, so I am reporting on the new methylene chloride rule and the challenges the rule will have on the environmental laboratory business. And, with all the talk about “Generative AI” and how it is going to revolutionize the world, make humans useless and threaten our very existence, I decided I would use ChatGPT to help me report on the methylene chloride rule. I will admit, I was impressed. What you read below is about 90% ChatGPT and 10% me tweaking and adding to the AI-generated text.

What do you think?  Let me know by email, phone (love the phone) or smoke signals!!

The Ban of Methylene Chloride and Impact to Commercial Environmental Laboratories

In April 2024, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) finalized a rule that bans most uses of methylene chloride, also known as dichloromethane, to protect human health. The rule applies to manufacturing, processing, distribution, use, and disposal of methylene chloride for all consumer uses and most industrial and commercial uses, including home renovations and printing. The US EPA determined that methylene chloride is acutely lethal, a neurotoxicant, and a likely human carcinogen. Exposure to methylene chloride has been linked to cancer, harm to the central nervous system, and toxicity to the liver.

The ban will allow for limited use in laboratories. But they will be required to have a Workplace Chemical Protection Program (WCPP) in place. The standard sets a permissible exposure limit (PEL) of 25 parts methylene chloride per million parts of air (ppm) as an 8-hour time-weighted average (TWA). What if laboratories cannot meet the PEL?

My exact question to ChatGPT “How will the ban on methylene chloride impact the environmental laboratory business?”

The ban on methylene chloride (dichloromethane) will have several significant impacts on the environmental laboratory business:

  1. Operational Changes
  • Alternative Solvents: Laboratories will need to switch to alternative solvents for analysis, extraction, and cleaning processes. Finding suitable replacements that match methylene chloride’s effectiveness and properties will be crucial. We may see wide sweeping changes in the way methods are implemented because of the need for multiple extraction solvents.
  • Method Validation: Existing analytical methods using methylene chloride will need to be revalidated or redeveloped with the new solvents. This can be a time-consuming and resource-intensive process. A change in solvent will require new method detection limit (MDL) studies. New demonstration of competencies and new precision and accuracy limits will need to be developed.
  • Equipment Adjustments: Some equipment may require modifications or replacements to handle alternative solvents, affecting both workflow and budget.
  1. Cost Implications
  • Increased Costs: Alternatives to methylene chloride could be more expensive, leading to higher operational costs. Additionally, the cost of method redevelopment and equipment modification or replacement will also add to expenses.
  • Training and Compliance: Staff will need training on new methods and safety protocols associated with alternative chemicals, contributing to increased costs.
  1. Regulatory Compliance
  • Adherence to New Regulations: Ensuring compliance with the new regulations will require changes in protocols, documentation, and possibly more frequent inspections or audits.
  • Health and Safety: Laboratories will need to update their health and safety protocols to reflect the hazards of any new solvents used, ensuring the safety of their workers.
  1. Environmental and Health Benefits
  • Reduced Toxicity: The ban will likely reduce the environmental and health hazards associated with methylene chloride, benefiting both laboratory workers and the broader community.
  • Sustainability Goals: Aligning with stricter environmental regulations can enhance a laboratory’s reputation for sustainability and corporate responsibility.
  1. Market Dynamics
  • Competitive Advantage: Laboratories that quickly adapt to the ban and develop robust alternative methods may gain a competitive edge. They can market themselves as leaders in safety and regulatory compliance.
  • Industry Shifts: There may be shifts in market dynamics, with some smaller laboratories struggling to keep up with the costs and requirements of the transition, potentially leading to industry consolidation.
  1. Research and Development (R&D)
  • Innovation: The ban will drive innovation in the development of safer and more sustainable solvents and methods. Laboratories that invest in R&D may benefit from new proprietary methods or technologies.


Overall, while the ban on methylene chloride will pose several challenges for environmental laboratories, it also presents opportunities for growth, innovation, and leadership in sustainability. Laboratories will need to strategically manage the transition to ensure compliance, maintain operational efficiency, and leverage the potential benefits of adopting safer and more environmentally friendly practices.

What’s Next?

Look for additional articles on how laboratories plan to deal with the ban on methylene chloride in the next issue of The Standard.

David Blye, CEAC

Senior Principal Chemist