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Death was related to paint stripping products containing methylene chloride

Author: Lillian Tong
by Lillian Tong
Posted: Nov 21, 2022

The deaths of at least 13 workers renovating bathtubs have been linked to a chemical used to strip paint and other finishes. An investigation started by researchers in 2011 found that since 2000, 13 deaths were related to the use of paint stripping products containing methylene chloride. Dichloromethane is a toxic chemical, which is widely used as degreaser and paint remover.

A survey started in 2011 by researchers at Michigan State University found that since 2000, 13 deaths - three of which occurred in Michigan - were related to the use of paint stripping products containing methylene chloride. Dichloromethane is a highly volatile, colorless and toxic chemical substance, which is widely used as degreaser and paint stripper. This chemical is not only used in industrial environments, but also in many over-the-counter drugs sold in home improvement stores.

"In order to safely use products containing dichloromethane, the working area must be well ventilated. When the concentration of dichloromethane exceeds the recommended exposure limit, workers must use protective equipment," said Kenneth Rosenman, director of occupational and environmental medicine at the Michigan State University School of Human Medicine. "In the bathroom, these products are unlikely to be safe to use."

Although it was previously identified as a potentially fatal occupational hazard for furniture strippers and factory workers, a new report recently released in the incidence rate and mortality weekly report of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is the first time to identify the hazard of dichloromethane to bathtub polishers.

Because its steam is heavier than air, they may remain in the bathtub after use, posing a greater risk to workers who use paint to peel off products.

"The extreme hazards of using products containing this chemical in bathtub renovations need to be clearly communicated to employers, workers and the public," Rosenman said "A safer method of using alternative products should be recommended."

Rosenman and Debra Chester, a colleague from Michigan State University, jointly wrote the just released warning of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They informed bath refiners across the country of their findings and reminded manufacturers of the product. The government is also trying to warn the public.

Since 2001, Michigan State University's Department of Occupational and Environmental Medicine has received federal funding for the Michigan Mortality Assessment and Control Assessment Program. The programme conducts an annual survey of work-related deaths and identifies ways to prevent them.

As part of the project last year, industrial hygienist Chester confirmed the death of a worker using a bathtub polisher in 2010. In that case, the 52 year old co owner of a bathtub renovation company in Michigan was found to have no reaction after using a product containing methylene chloride sold for the aircraft industry. He later died in a local hospital.

Chester found a similar death in Michigan using the same product in early 2010, as well as another death several years ago. After informing the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, 13 deaths have been identified in nine states since April 2000. Two weeks ago, an Iowa woman died while renovating a bathtub. An investigation is under way to see if she might have been exposed to methylene chloride.

As part of the MSU survey, it is recommended that manufacturers indicate on products containing methylene chloride that they should not be used for applications such as bath polishing. The report also recommends that manufacturers consider limiting the use of such products.

The report also points out that the number of deaths determined may be underestimated, because the national database does not include self-employed or consumers, and more deaths among bath polishing workers may be attributed to heart disease, when in fact they are caused by dichloromethane.

About the Author

ECHEMI is a chemical supply chain service company headquartered in Hong Kong, providing chemical raw materials supply, research and analysis, marketing, distribution, logistics, E-commerce and after-sales services.

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Author: Lillian Tong

Lillian Tong

Member since: Jun 26, 2022
Published articles: 25

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