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Methylene Chloride is Dangerous...There are Safer Alternatives!

Fatalities among construction workers who were using methylene chloride (MeCl) prompted the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) to recently publish an occupational health hazard alert entitled: "Methylene Chloride is Dangerous... There are Safer Alternatives!"

MeCl is a chemical solvent widely used in paint strippers, metal cleaners, and degreasers. Contractors have been exposed when refinishing cabinetry, removing paint or coatings from steel, applying foam, painting with epoxy paints, spraying adhesives, and using a solvent containing MeCl. CDPH encourages contractors to always read product labels to find out whether MeCl is present.

In November 2011, CDPH learned that methylene chloride-based paint strippers caused the deaths of at least 13 contractors nationwide who were refinishing bathtubs. CDPH was writing an alert to warn product users about this hazardous solvent when another worker died in California while stripping paint in a confined space. The worker's partner almost died from inhaling MeCl vapors while trying to help him. Federal OSHA has found that methylene chloride exposure caused over 50 deaths in various occupations since the mid-1980s.

In 2006, the state health department published a fact sheet on methylene chloride that described the health effects from short-term exposure as headaches; dizziness; eye, nose, and throat irritation; chest pain; and trouble breathing. Exposure to very high concentrations (for example, in enclosed spaces without adequate ventilation) can be fatal. Long-term exposure to MeCl increases the risk of liver damage and cancer.

Contractors also can call the Hazard Evaluation System and Information Service at the CDPH with questions about methylene chloride and other workplace hazards at 866.282.5516 (toll-free in California).    |    | previous    |    next