EPA inaction means workers risk their lives using deadly paint strippers
“No one should have to risk their life to earn a paycheck.”
That’s what we said 18 months ago when EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler announced that the agency would ban sales of deadly paint strippers to everyday consumers but still allow commercial use on the job. While we applauded the consumer use ban, we had to cry foul on the failure to protect workers.
Acute exposures to paint strippers containing the dangerous chemical methylene chloride have killed as many as 85 people since 1980. Two-thirds of those people have died on the job. Many methylene chloride-based paint and coating removers are used in areas with limited ventilation, such as bathrooms, allowing fumes to build up. This can cause a heart attack or asphyxiation. Methylene chloride turns into carbon monoxide in the body and can cut off the oxygen supply to the heart. At high doses, the chemical switches off the breathing center of the victim’s brain.
In addition to immediate death from acute exposure, many more workers suffer profound dangers to their health from ongoing exposure on the job. Chronic exposures to methylene chloride are associated with serious health impacts, including death, liver toxicity, kidney toxicity, reproductive toxicity, cognitive impairments, brain cancer, liver cancer, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and multiple myeloma.
In its recent “final risk evaluation” of methylene chloride, the EPA identified “unreasonable risks to workers, occupational non-users, consumers, and bystanders from methylene chloride exposure under 47 out of 53 conditions of use.”
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