Occupational Hazards Include Exposure to Methylene Chloride

Workers and consumers have suffered serious injuries or death after using toxic paint strippers containing Methylene Chloride. The toxin is linked to hundreds of ER visits and multiple deaths each year.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), at least 14 workers have died of methylene chloride poisoning since 2000. The CDC urges that work areas must be Workplace Ventilation Risks when levels of methylene chloride exceed exposure limits, and urge workers to use respiratory protective equipment, such as tight-fitting, full-face, supplied-air respirators.

Methylene chloride, also called dichloromethane, is used in various industrial processes, including paint stripping, pharmaceutical manufacturing, paint remover manufacturing, and metal cleaning and degreasing, even with severe risks of dangerous inhalation and skin exposure.

The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) passed stricter regulations regarding occupational use of methylene chloride in 1997, but these laws don’t protect self-employed individuals or private consumers who willingly purchase methylene chloride products.

Lawyers allege that consumers are not given Toxic Exposure Attorney of certain products. OSHA considers methylene chloride to be a potential occupational carcinogen.

Joe Lyon is a highly-rated Cincinnati, Ohio Personal Injury Lawyer who has represented individuals nationwide in workplace injury toxic exposure and toxic tort claims.

Common Uses of Methylene Chloride

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently announced new limitations on uses of methylene chloride, and said the chemical presents an unreasonable risk to consumers and workers.

Officials note that methylene chloride, commonly found in paint strippers, is linked to more than 50 deaths since the 1980s. Chemical safety experts have called for a significant reduction in commercial and consumer use.

The new EPA regulation prohibits the manufacture and use of consumer products containing methylene chloride, but stops short of banning it for commercial use, leaving a wide range of workers still vulnerable to inhalation injuries and associated cancer risks.

The move by the EPA may be a little too late, according to safety advocates, and thousands of workers around the nation have been injured by the chemical and have since filed methylene chloride lawsuits on the basis of companies selling an extremely hazardous chemical when safer alternatives are available

Toxic solvents are used in a number of different industries and applications, including:

  • Adhesives
  • Paint
  • Paint removers
  • Coatings
  • Varnish strippers and coatings
  • Metal cleaning: Medical equipment can be quickly cleaned without causing corrosion problems or damage to heat-sensitive parts.
  • Food & Beverage: used as an extraction solvent in the F&B manufacturing industry. Methylene chloride can be used to remove caffeine from unroasted coffee beans and tea leaves, to process spices, or create hops extract.
  • Transportation: Used to degrease metal parts, airplane components and railroad equipment.
  • Medical Applications: used in laboratories to extract chemicals from plants or foods for steroids, antibiotics and vitamins.
  • Photography
  • Chemical processing
  • Aerosols
  • Bathtub refinishing

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has evaluated and identified certain health risks to consumers and workers. Studies show that paint and coating removal pose some of the highest exposures among the various solvent uses. The EPA has moved to limit use in consumer paint stripping products.

Health Hazards & Long-term Complications

The effects of short-term exposures to workers and consumers can result in serious harm to central nervous systems, and neurotoxicity. Effects of longer periods of chronic exposure for workers includes liver toxicity, liver cancer, and lung cancer. The EPA has proposed to ban the use of methylene chloride in all paint and coating removal products for consumer and most commercial uses.

People using paint and coating solvents should follow the manufacturer’s instructions, and any product containing methylene chloride should be used outdoors. If the work must occur indoor, proper ventilation and personal safety equipment is a must.

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Symptoms of Methylene Chloride Poisoning

Consumer and workers are generally injured when using methylene chloride products in a poorly-ventilated area or without proper protection. Signs of chemical poisoning include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Difficulty breathing

Preventing Toxic Exposure at the Workplace

Health authorities say dozens of people have died from exposure to solvents and toxins. OSHA issued a warning to workers of the dangers after a recent death from exposure to the chemical. In the death report, a worker was using a paint stripper to remove bathtub coating solution containing 90 percent methylene chloride. The worker was found unconscious and dead of asphyxiation with acute toxicity.

OSHA advises employers to use safer chemical alternatives, or to follow OSHA standards:

  • Perform monitoring and air sampling to determine toxin exposure.
  • Implement a respiratory protection program.
  • Provide adequate ventilation (fans and open windows are NOT adequate).
  • Provide and enforce the use of proper personal protective equipment.
  • Provide hazard training to workers.

Skin contact should be minimized by using gloves made of polyethylene vinyl alcohol and ethylene vinyl alcohol (PVA/EVA), which are resistant to toxic absorption. Other types of gloves are not recommended for use with solvents, including latex, nitrile, neoprene, polyethylene, and butyl rubber gloves.

Toxic Inhalation Injury

Thus far, many retailers have removed paint stripping products containing methylene chloride. However, since commercial use of the chemical is still not banned, workers are still at risk of developing respiratory illnesses or related cancers.

Wrongful death cases of paint strippers and bathtub refinishers have brought some awareness to the dangers of the chemical, though workplace injury risks make methylene chloride lawsuits a necessary challenge for injured workers. The level of toxic exposure varies, and typically depends upon the duration of exposure and level of ventilation in a work area.

If you or a loved one has suffered an illness due to toxic exposure and have questions about the legal remedies available to improve quality of life and medical care in Ohio, contact The Lyon Firm at (800) 513-2403. You will speak directly with Mr. Lyon, and he will help you answer these critical questions.