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 well-ventilated 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 proper warning of the health risks of certain products. OSHA considers methylene chloride to be a potential occupational carcinogen.
Common Uses of Methylene Chloride
Toxic solvents are used in a number of different industries and applications, including:
- Paint removers
- 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.
- Chemical processing
- 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.
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:
- 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.
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.