One worker died and another became sick after an exposure to methylene chloride while performing separate bathroom resurfacing projects in the Portland area in recent months. Oregon OSHA is urging employers to take precautions to avoid exposure to the chemical, which can severely burn the skin and eyes; damage the liver, kidney, and brain; and may cause death. Symptoms include dizziness, headache, and disorientation.
In January, the victim in the first incident was discovered hunched over the bathtub by the homeowner after vapors from a methylene chloride stripper overcame him. He was not wearing a respirator and was working in a small bathroom with a ceiling fan and closed door. He never regained consciousness and died in the hospital.
In the second incident, a worker finished applying methylene chloride to a sink in a bathroom with no fan and a window opened just a few inches. The homeowner called for help after the worker was acting incoherent. He was not wearing a respirator.
Many stripping products, including those found over the counter, contain high percentages of methylene chloride. Use of these chemicals in bathrooms is dangerous, particularly because bathrooms are often small, with little or no ventilation. Workers should use full-face supplied air respirators, protective gloves, and other appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) during the entire refinishing process and should be properly trained on the hazards of methylene chloride.
More information about the chemical dangers and bathroom refinishing is available in a new Oregon OSHA hazard alert:
Suterra LLC, Bend
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