Common Paint-Stripping Chemical Linked to at Least 13 Deaths
Common paint-stripping products containing a little-known chemical known as methylene chloride could not only be posing serious risks to the health of home improvement workers, but home owners and the general public as a whole. Now linked to at least 13 deaths, the true negative effects of these methylene chloride-containing products are only now fully coming to light thanks to an investigation by researchers at Michigan State University.
Launched in 2011, the scientists conducting the research found that at least 13 deaths have occurred from the usage of paint-stripping products containing methylene chloride since the year 2000. Widely used as a degreaser and paint stripper in over-the-counter products that any consumer can take home, methylene chloride is a highly toxic chemical. Colorless and highly volatile, the chemical inhabits many home improvement products sold at popular “DIY” store chains.
In the past, methylene chloride was considered to be a ‘potentially fatal occupational hazard’ pertaining to furniture strippers and factory workers, but a new report released by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report also highlights the dangers of this chemical in bathtub refinishes. What this means is that the presence of this chemical isn’t just affecting niche industry workers, it is affecting the health of the general public.
“To use products containing methylene chloride safely, work areas must be well-ventilated, and when levels of methylene chloride exceed recommended exposure limits, workers must use protective equipment,” said Kenneth Rosenman, chief of MSU’s Division of Occupational and Environmental Medicine in the College of Human Medicine. “In a small bathroom, it is unlikely these products can be used safely.”
This has to do with the fact that since the vapors from the chemical are heavier than air, they can actually remain in bathtubs after application. Not only does this endanger workers — especially those who do not follow this specific protocol — but it means it could be devastating your health in many ways.
“The extreme hazards of using products with this chemical in bathtub refinishing need to be clearly communicated to employers, workers and the general public,” Rosenman said. “Safer methods using alternative products should be recommended.”
Before purchasing home improvement products from commercial retailers, be sure to investigate the ingredients used within the product. Just like it was recently found that driveway sealant chemicals could be damaging health and the environment, a number of industrial chemicals need to be analyzed (or re-analyzed) for safety.
Natural Society staff contribution