Methylene Chloride Related Deaths Linked To Bathtub RefinishingEditor's Choice
Main Category: Public Health
Article Date: 24 Feb 2012 - 13:00 PST email to a friend printer friendly opinions rate article
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The Michigan Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation program, which is 1 of 9 state Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation programs funded by NIOSH, began an investigation in 2010 to determine the cause of death of a bathtub refinisher, linked to methylene chrloride-based paint stripper. The man who died used this stripping product, which was originally for use in aircrafts. While investigating his death, the program learned of two earlier deaths, also in Michigan, which were very similar to the death of this man. After learning of these deaths, the team notified CDC's National Institute for Occupational Safety, who then notified Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). OSHA found 10 additional deaths linked to the bathtub refinisher methylene chloride stripping agents, which had been investigated between 2000 and 2011. All of the deaths took place in home bathrooms which were not ventilated by the proper machinery to guard against methylene chloride vapor, which according to experts is extremely dangerous to workers in factories and furniture strippers, but until now no reports have told of deaths due to exposure to the vapor. During their investigation, OSHA and OSHA-approved State Occupational Safety and Health Plans discovered 12 deaths related to methylene chloride, in relation to bathtub refinishing between 2000 and 2011, in people from ages 23 to 57. Out of these people, 12 were males. The program determined that 10 products were related to the 13 fatalities, 6 of which were supposed to be used with aircrafts, and the others were meant for use with glass, wood, metal, and masonry. The prevalence of methylene chloride in these products was between 60% and 100%. Autopsy reports showed that the methylene chloride blood levels in 6 people who died and had autopsies performed were between 18 and 223 mg/L. An acceptable and expected level is <2 mg/L in someone who works in close proximity to methylene chloride fumes. Five of the people who died were examined in terms of their carboxyhemoglobin (COHb) levels, and the levels were between 0 and 5%. This means that carbon monoxide most likely had nothing to do with the people's deaths. However, the length of exposure to methylene chloride, and the amount of oxygen received during attempts to resuscitate the patients was unknown. These are two key factors which alter COHb levels. It was determined by the researchers that between 1979 and 1999, a mere 8% of methylene chloride related fatalities were due to exposure to bathtub refinishing. However, 75% of deaths linked to methylene chloride since 2000, 75% were due to bathtub refinishing. Written By Christine Kearney
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