Paint thinners with methylene chloride have caused dozens of workplace deaths since the 1940s, often involving unsuspecting construction workers. Methylene chloride can be bought in hardware stores as paint thinner, even though rapid asphyxiation and heart attacks can occur if the product is used in poorly ventilated areas. Even with the use of respirators, methylene chloride can cause fatal work accidents.
In an article published by Slate, several stories of workers losing their lives highlight the dangers associated with the substance. One story involved an Iraq War veteran who was working as a church maintenance employee in 2010 when he died while stripping paint from a baptismal pool. Another case occurred in Ohio, when a 30-year-old man was found slumped over dead in a bathtub he had been refinishing.
Methylene chloride turns to carbon monoxide when inhaled; meaning the brain and heart no longer receive oxygen. The dangerous chemical is also an anesthetic, and unsuspecting workers can quickly lose consciousness when working around it. In addition to causing death, the substance was declared a carcinogen in 1985 by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
Can Regulations Prevent Fatal Workplace Accidents From Dangerous Fumes?
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has regulations regarding the use of methylene chloride. However, OSHA regulations do not apply to self-employed workers. Families who have lost loved ones to methylene chloride are calling on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to issue new regulations that can prevent future tragedies.
While the EPA does plan to enact new regulations and publish warnings regarding the substance, it is not expected to do so until next year.
Larrimer & Larrimer, LLC – Columbus Workers’ Comp Attorneys