Fatalities found among bathtub refinishers

An investigation into the death of a Michigan bathtub refinisher in 2010 has uncovered more than a dozen other fatalities that may be related to the same chemical compound. In the Feb. 24 issue of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, a publication by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, researchers looked at the effect of methylene chloride, a paint-stripping product for aircraft maintenance marketed for use in aircraft maintenance. 

Working in tandem with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the agencies identified 13 bathtub refinisher fatalities associated with methylene chloride stripping agents that had been investigated in nine states during 2000 to 2011. Each death occurred in a residential bathroom with inadequate ventilation. Protective equipment, including a respirator, either was not used or was inadequate to protect against methylene chloride vapor, which has been recognized as potentially fatal to furniture strippers and factory workers, but has not been reported previously as a cause of death among bathtub refinishers.

Bathtub refinishing is offered to consumers through a number of home improvement outlets and service providers. 

The ages of the 13 decedents ranged from 23 to 57 years. Twelve were male.

Ten different products were associated with the 13 deaths. Six of the products were marketed for use in the aircraft industry, the rest for use on wood, metal, glass and masonry. None of the product labels mentioned bathtub refinishing. The percentage of methylene chloride in the products ranged from 60% to 100%.