An indignant letter in this month's Chemistry World has drawn my attention to a forthcoming ban on the use of dichloromethane, except by the most professional of professionals. EU sidesteps Reach to ban paint stripping solvent goes the relevant article, Reach being an acronym for Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of Chemicals.

Dichloromethane is indeed king of the paint strippers. As I learnt during a project to test these, it has the right solubility parameters (note the plural, I'm using the multi-dimensional approach) to go for most paint resins, and moreover its small molecular volume allows it to get in between the polymer molecules like a blood-crazed ferret.

As the European Association for Safer Coatings Removal will tell you, dichloromethane as a paint stripper has been involved in a number of fatalities and injuries. However, unless a good solvent-based alternative is available, paint stripping will have to be carried out by steam or abrasion. The latter will leave dust, from which the operator can be protected, but what about cleaning up on behalf of subsequent occupants of the building? Imagine a child crawling around and ingesting the residues from lead-based paints.

The same letter stated that among weedkillers sodium chlorate and ammonium sulfamate are now also under a ban. The former is dangerous, and every year I used to hear about children injuring or even killing themselves using the former. However, the latter is the among the most innocuous (to animals) garden biocides you can find. The Wikipedia article and discussion pages indicate that here they banned it simply because they couldn't find someone to stand up for it. Hey-ho, roll on the Japanese Knotweed.

It is also widely stated on the web that the EU is going to force us (the British?) to replace lightbulb labelling in watts to lumens. There is an outcry. While much of this may be simply dislike of change, the use of watts as the unit of power does tell you the contribution to your carbon footprint, while lumens tell you how much light you are supposed to get for your money. But if one is environmentally conscious, then I guess the former is preferable.