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Toxic exposure: Methylene chloride in paint stripper can kill

Following the death of a worker who was using a paint stripper before recoating a bathtub, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued a warning. This is to remind employers and workers nationwide, including in Iowa, of the dangers posed by chemicals. This worker died from toxic exposure to methylene chloride. The agency urged companies to explore safer, non-toxic alternatives when stripping paint.

Reportedly, the man was working in a poorly ventilated, small bathroom when he was overcome by the toxic fumes. The small window was only partially opened, and the methylene chloride content of the paint stripper was 85 to 90 percent. His lifeless body was discovered later.

OSHA said vegetable-based products are available, but in cases in which toxic products are used, employers must follow prescribed safety regulations. These include providing safety training to ensure employees are aware of the hazards and know the precautions. Personal safety equipment must be provided, including respiratory equipment. Workers should be aware that open windows and bathroom fans are not enough to ensure proper ventilation.

Whenever lives are lost due to toxic exposure in workplaces, the surviving family members of the deceased workers may have to face several hardships. Along with the unexpected expenses related to end-of-life expenses, they will have to cope with the sudden loss of income. Financial assistance is available through the Iowa workers' compensation insurance system. Death benefits claims may be filed, and although compensation can never replace a lost loved one, it may help the dependents to cope financially. Along with the costs of a funeral and burial, the benefits typically include a financial package to replace a portion of lost wages.

Source: safetyandhealthmagazine.com, "OSHA warns about hazards of methylene chloride in new alert", Aug. 17, 2016

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