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New CDC Alert to Consumers: Bathtub Refinishing Products Deadly

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Bathtub refinishing products linked to fatalities: CDC warning

Researchers from Michigan State University (MSU) have linked an ingredient in paint-stripping compounds to deaths, in a new finding. In their investigation, the scientists found at least 13 deaths associated with methylene chloride that is contained in degreasing compounds and used to refinish bathtubs. Subsequently, the CDC has issued an alert recommending safer methods of stripping bathtubs for repainting.

In their investigation that started in 2011, the MSU team, conducted by Kenneth Rosenman, chief of MSU's Division of Occupational and Environmental Medicine in the College of Human Medicine and MSU colleague Debra Chester, who co-wrote the CDC alert released February 23,2012, uncovered a major hazard to workers who refinish bathtubs and use products containing methylene chloride.

Methylene chloride is found in for use at home paint-stripping compounds and is also used industrially. The researchers say vapors from the chemical are heavier than air and can linger in the bathroom after being used.

“The extreme hazards of using products with this chemical in bathtub refinishing need to be clearly communicated to employers, workers and the general public," Rosenman said. "Safer methods using alternative products should be recommended."

He says the chemical would not be safe for use in a small bathroom, and he recommends when it is used that workers should only do so in a well-ventilated space with protective equipment.

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Last year, Chester identified the link between the methylene chloride and risk of death when a 52- year old bathtub refinisher in Michigan perished in 2010. The man had used a compound marketed for the aircraft industry. He was found unresponsive and later died.

With more research, Chester found two additional deaths linked to methylene chloride and then notified the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety.

Afterwards, 13 deaths in nine states were uncovered, linked to methylene chloride in paint-stripping products.

In Iowa woman who was refinishing a bathtub died two weeks ago. Her death is currently being investigated to find out if the chemical was responsible.

The researchers say the number of deaths caused by the paint-stripping chemical is probably underestimated. They recommend manufacturers restrict consumer access to products with the chemical, many of which are widely sold on the internet for 'do-it-yourself use'. The study authors also say products containing methylene chloride should be clearly labeled as not for use for refinishing bathtubs.

Source: CDC.gov
"Fatal Exposure to Methylene Chloride Among Bathtub Refinishers — United States, 2000–2011"
February 24, 2012

Image credit: Morguefile



Bathtub refinishing is definitely the answer to any type of tub restoration project. Saving over 80% over the cost of replacement is the main reason bathtub refinishing will always be the number one alternative to making any bathtub look new again.
Unfortunately. money seems to take precedence over human health.
It is really sad. I refinished bathtubs for 6 years and know the dangers involved. There are paint stripping alternatives that do not contain methylene chloride readily available from SPR Bathtub Refinishing Products. They offer an environmentally friendly form of bathtub refinishing that comes with a lifetime guarantee against peeling. They are also offering a business opportunity now to help new ones get started in a safer form of bathtub refinishing. Check it out.