Methylene chloride, a chemical that is commonly found in furniture refinisher and is often used to refinish bathtubs, has been labeled as toxic and a potential carcinogen that puts many lives in danger.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control has linked the chemical to 13 worker deaths that occurred between 2000 and 2011. Every worker death occurred in a home bathroom that did not provide adequate ventilation. The CDC determined that either protective equipment was not used in these cases, or such equipment was not strong enough to protect against the chemical.
The chemical is most often ingested by inhalation, which causes respiratory issues and skin or eye irritation. It is, of course, imperative that workers have adequate ventilation when using any kind of paint strippers; too much ventilation, however, can be a problem because it may increase the emissions of the solvent.
Other countries have already recognized the dangers of methylene chloride. Canada has declared the chemical toxic under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act because it poses a threat to the environment and to human health, even in small amounts. A Canadian environmental group wants more warnings on household cleaning and maintenance products that contain methylene chloride.
Methylene chloride had been previously identified as potentially fatal for workers who strip furniture but there had been no information to date of its danger for bathtub refinishers in particular. One of the authors of the study is urging bathtub refinishers to find another way of refinishing bathtubs because the chemical cannot be used safely in small residential bathrooms.
Source: CBC, "Bathtub refinishing chemical linked to U.S. deaths," Feb. 24, 2012.