Exposure to paint remover chemical kills workmen

February 24th, 2012 - 5:07 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Feb 24 (IANS) Exposure to a highly volatile, colourless and toxic chemical, present in paint stripping products, turned fatal for 13 labourers working on bathtubs in the US, according to an investigation.

The chemical, methylene chloride, besides being used in industrial settings, is available in many over-the-counter products sold at home improvement stores.

Although previously identified as a potentially fatal occupational hazard for furniture paint strippers and factory workers, an alert just issued by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has identifed it for the first time as a hazard to bathtub refinishers.

Since the chemical’s vapours are heavier than air, they likely remain in bathtubs after application, causing increased danger to workers applying a paint-stripping product.

Kenneth Rosenman and colleague Debra Chester from the Michigan State University, who co-wrote the CDC alert, notified bathtub refinishers of their findings and alerted manufacturers of the product. Efforts also are being made to warn 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 Rosenman, who heads the Michigan’s division of occupational and environmental medicine, according to a CDC statement.

“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.”

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