NIOSH, OSHA, and California Department of Public Health – all have issued recent alerts on the hazards of using strippers containing methylene chloride when refinishing bathtubs. And yet, just a few weeks ago, another person – this time an Oregonian – died refinishing a bathtub while removing two layers of bathtub coating with the use of Aircraft Stripper.
Most chemical strippers, including this one, contain methylene chloride. If you are a chemist, you know that methylene chloride has a very high vapor pressure. This means that when you use it, it rapidly goes from liquid to vapor – vapors that can collect in the bottom of a tub and in a small, unventilated bathroom – providing an easy pathway into your lungs. If you are a toxicologist, you know that methylene chloride is an anesthetic and a recognized carcinogen. It can make you feel drunk, sleepy and potentially kill you if you haven’t provided enough ventilation. In this case, the victim was found by the homeowner in a small, poorly ventilated bathroom. Sadly, although the homeowner attempted resuscitation, the victim later died in the hospital.
Methylene chloride is a bad actor. It’s a great stripper, perhaps, but its health hazard has caused many workplaces to ban it and require safer alternatives. Unfortunately, many smaller contractors who use it are unaware or haven’t paid attention to warnings about its hazardous nature. So share this! Share these alerts with those who need to know.
California Department of Public Health: Preventing Worker Deaths from Paint Strippers Containing Methylene Chloride
This site contains many resources, including a listing of safer alternatives.
NIOSH Science Blog: Dangers of Bathtub Refinishing (Feb. 4, 2013)
Oregon FACE (Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation)