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OSHA issues new warning about dangers of methylene chloride

Thanks to improving economic conditions and a revitalized real estate market, more people are out looking for apartments to rent or homes to purchase. As such, it's highly likely that many home remodelers are getting a significant amount of work from property owners looking to improve their spaces and, by extension, maximize their potential profit.

While it's always good to be busy, both remodelers and their employees who specialize in bathroom upgrades should be aware of a recent warning from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration concerning a dangerous chemical found in some of their commonly used products.

The ingredient in question is methylene chloride, which is found in many of the strippers used to remove the coating of bathtubs prior to refinishing, and which can rapidly create toxic vapors in small and poorly ventilated settings. Indeed, methylene chloride-based paint strippers designed to refinish bathtubs were linked to 17 worker deaths from 2000 to 2015.  

The recent OSHA warning comes after a recent tragedy in which a worker stripping a bathtub in the small bathroom of an apartment building was asphyxiated by toxic fumes created by the 85-90 percent methylene chloride solution he was using -- despite having a window open.

As to what should be done to keep workers safe, OSHA recommends employers strongly consider the following:

  • Using alternatives to methylene chloride-based solutions, including vegetable- or water-based solutions
  • Providing the necessary ventilation as bathroom fans and open windows are insufficient
  • Outfitting workers with the necessary personal protective equipment from gloves to respirators
  • Supplying workers with the necessary hazard training

Here's hoping that employers get the message and do what they must to keep their workers safe.

As always, please understand that if you are suffering from a serious occupational illness attributable to exposure to toxic substances that you may be entitled to workers' compensation benefits, which can cover your medical expenses and help make ends meet. 

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