Baltimore Workers’ Compensation Lawyers: Chemical Commonly Found in Paint Stripper DangerousSeptember 28, 2015
The Environmental Protection Agency is expected to issue new rules regarding a widely used chemical that can trigger sudden death in those who have been exposed. Methylene chloride, also called dichloromethane, is a volatile, colorless liquid commonly used in paint stripping, but is also used in various industries including pharmaceutical manufacturing, paint remover manufacturing, metal cleaning and degreasing and carpet cleaning and gluing.
The chemical has been under scrutiny for decades for its cancer causing risks, but safety advocates now say that more needs to be done to protect people from another known hazard – sudden death. When inhaled, methylene chloride turns into carbon monoxide in the body, which in turn can starve the heart of oxygen and trigger a heart attack. The chemical can also act as a powerful anesthetic at high doses, causing the victim to stop breathing and eventually suffer brain damage or brain death.
A recent investigation conducted by the Center for Public Integrity found at least 56 deaths linked to methylene chloride since 1980, most of which were sudden. The most recent death happened this past July. The product comes with health warnings about the long-term risk of cancer from prolonged exposure, but there are no warnings about the risk of sudden death. Instead, the label warns users to avoid using in areas without adequate ventilation, but does not say why. The possibility of death is only mentioned in connection with swallowing or huffing the solvent.
In 1997, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) began tightening its rules on the use of methylene chloride in the workplace. Employers are required to follow OSHA rules in regards to air measurements, control methods and respirator use when using the toxic chemical. However, since that time, OSHA inspectors have found air samples testing positive for methylene chloride topped the exposure limit nearly 20% of the time. Almost all of the companies whose workers died from exposure to the chemical were found in violation of federal safety standards and fined.
Methylene chloride has been banned from general use in Europe since 2011. Safety advocates in the U.S. have pushed for a similar ban, but have been met with resistance by those in the solvent industry. The EPA is currently considering new rules that could involve stricter warnings and restrictions on the use of the chemical. It may take a year or more before a final ruling is made.
Employers are required to provide workers with a safe place to work. This includes providing proper training and air respiratory protection, and ensuring adequate ventilation, monitoring and communication. If exposure to a toxic chemical results in a workplace injury or death, Workers’ Compensation can help to cover many of the costs associated with the accident. In some cases, victims may be able to get additional compensation by filing a third party liability claim against the manufacturer of the unsafe product. A qualified Workers’ Compensation lawyer with experience handling product liability cases can help to determine the best course of action to take in these circumstances.
Baltimore Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Represent Victims of Workplace Chemical Exposure
If you or a loved one has suffered serious health complications while working with methylene chloride or any other dangerous substance, we can help. Baltimore Workers’ Compensation lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton are committed to helping injured workers in Baltimore obtain the highest possible awards from their Workers’ Compensation claim. We also have extensive experience successfully representing clients in third party liability claims against the makers of dangerous products. Call 844-556-4LAW (4529) today to schedule your free consultation or submit an online contact form.