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Gelman: Methylene Chloride Remains Fatal Hazard in Workplace

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Exposure to paint strippers containing methylene chloride remains a severe health concern for workers.

Jon L. Gelman

Jon L. Gelman

The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals recently refused to extend the Environmental Protection Agency's regulations to cover methylene chloride in the commercial setting.

Exposure to methylene chloride, a chemical used in paint products, can result in:

  • Death.
  • Neurological impact such as a coma, incapacitation, loss of consciousness, dizziness.
  • Liver effects.

Chronic exposure to methylene chloride can result in: 

  • Brain cancer. 
  • Liver cancer.
  • Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. 
  • Multiple myeloma.

Methylene chloride is commonly used by persons engaged in bathtub refurbishing. It is also known as dichloromethane (DCM). More than 49 deaths were caused by methylene chloride, according to documents published by the EPA. The EPA reported that even requiring respirators still produces the acute risks of incapacitation or death in workers exposed to methylene chloride.

"Methylene chloride, also called dichloromethane, is a volatile, colorless liquid with a chloroform-like odor," according to the Occupational Safety and Health Organization. "Methylene chloride is used in various industrial processes in many industries, including paint stripping, pharmaceutical manufacturing, paint remover manufacturing and metal cleaning and degreasing. The most common means of exposure to methylene chloride are inhalation and skin exposure. OSHA considers methylene chloride to be a potential occupational carcinogen."

While methylene chloride has been banned for sale in the retail market, the court ruled that commercial workplaces are still permitted to use this hazardous chemical. The court reasoned that the EPA is still contemplating a rule that will drastically reduce or eliminate methylene chloride used in a commercial setting.

Workers' compensation benefits are available for eligible workers who have been injured due to exposure to methylene chloride in an occupational setting. If you have been exposed, you should consult a lawyer familiar with workers' compensation benefits as soon as possible.

Claimants' attorney Jon L. Gelman is the author of "New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Law" and co-author of the national treatise "Modern Workers’ Compensation Law." He is based in Wayne, New Jersey. This blog post is republished with permission.

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