Fatal Exposure to Methylene Chloride Among Bathtub Refinishers

United States, 2000-2011

Debra Chester, MS; Kenneth D. Rosenman, MD; George R. Grimes, MD; Kathleen Fagan, MD; Dawn N. Castillo, MPH


Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. 2012;61(7):119-122. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


In 2010, the Michigan Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation program conducted an investigation into the death of a bathtub refinisher who used a methylene chloride–based paint stripping product marketed for use in aircraft maintenance. The program identified two earlier, similar deaths in Michigan. Program staff members notified CDC's National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), which in turn notified the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). In addition to the three deaths, OSHA identified 10 other bathtub refinisher fatalities associated with methylene chloride stripping agents that had been investigated in nine states during 2000–2011. 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[1,2] but has not been reported previously as a cause of death among bathtub refinishers. Worker safety agencies, public health agencies, methylene chloride–based stripper manufacturers, and trade organizations should communicate the extreme hazards of using methylene chloride–based stripping products in bathtub refinishing to employers, workers, and consumers. Employers should strongly consider alternative methods of bathtub stripping and always ensure worker safety protections that reduce the risk for health hazards to acceptable levels. Employers choosing to use methylene chloride–based stripping products must comply with OSHA's standard to limit methylene chloride exposures to safe levels.

The Michigan program is one of nine state Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation programs funded by NIOSH to identify work-related injury deaths, conduct investigations to identify contributory factors, and develop recommendations for preventing deaths in similar situations. The findings of these investigations and subsequent recommendations are summarized in narrative reports broadly disseminated to employer and worker groups and posted at the NIOSH Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation website.*

* Additional information available at https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/face.
Additional information available at https://www.osha.gov/dcsp/osp/index.html.
§ Additional information available at https://www.oem.msu.edu/miface/10mi013report.pdf.


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