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April 9 - April 15, 2012

More than a dozen Americans (including painters) have died in recent years from methylene chloride paint strippers. Now the European Union is cracking down on the products. What should the US do?



More items for Health & Safety
Answers Votes
Nothing. Let the buyer and user beware. 27%
Restrict use to industrial settings, as the EU plans to do. 49%
Ban these products. There are safer options for stripping cured paint. 24%


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Tagged categories: Chemical stripping; Government

Comment from Jerry Trevino, (4/24/2012, 8:23 PM)

Dihydrogen monoxide also kills people. Should we ban this substance? Cars kill people, food kills people, animals kill people, People kill People, should we ban all these things??


Comment from M. Halliwelll, (4/26/2012, 10:47 AM)

Jerry, there is a difference between a nanny state trying to protect us from everything and the govenrment trying to deal with a susbstance that we're found out is far more harmful (and at lower levels) than initially believed. I doubt you're one advocating a return to lead paint, fogging communities with DDT or playing with liquid mercury...sure, mehtylene chloride strippers work well, but considering how publically accessible they are and what we're finding out about the health effects (including death), it would seems reasonable to at least want to restrict who has access to the chemical. Of course, YMMV.


Comment from Catherine Brooks, (4/26/2012, 10:51 AM)

Jerry, the "buyer and user beware option" doesn't consider that the end customers of homeowners and building occupants don't necessarily have a say in what products are used by vendors. These end customers often trust the ethics and safety practices of their vendors. Not always a good idea if the attitude above prevails.


Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (4/26/2012, 4:38 PM)

The LD50 (oral) for methylene chloride is around 1600 mg/kg. (the lower, the more toxic.) Some other LD50s for comparison: Table salt is 3000 mg/kg. Aspirin is 200 mg/kg. Caffeine is 192 mg/kg. Nicotine is 50 mg/kg. Toluene is 600 mg/kg.


Comment from Anna Jolly, (4/26/2012, 5:10 PM)

Unfortunately, if you are trying to make the argument that MC is less toxic that caffine, the arguement fails. The LD50(oral) is for ingestion of these materials. Unfortunately, the main route of exposure to MC at work is inhalation, therefore this oral number is the appropriate one to use. Do you inhale salt and caffiene? This is apples and organges. The basic toxicity information is only one part of the hazard determination and you can not make comparisons without more information. I have considerable experience with MC. I can tell you that it is volitile and will evaporate to fill the space you are in. Nicotine is very toxic but smokers breath it everyday. But if you ingest it is is a posion and it also can absorb through the skin. Hence the high, oral LD50. Leave the toxicology to the toxicologists!


Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (4/27/2012, 8:22 AM)

Anna - I don't snort caffeine. I also don't drink methylene chloride. However, the oral LD50 doses are the most readily available, and I believe comparing toxicity via the same ingestion rout is more of an "apples to apples" comparison of how toxic these things are. As an aside, I'm drinking an aqueous caffeine solution right now. I suspect most readers will do the same in the next 24 hours. The real problem here is: "Don't breathe concentrated solvent vapors. Ventilate." Any painter should know this.


Comment from James Johnson, (4/27/2012, 10:31 AM)

Aside from LD numbers I feel there really is not enough information provided to make an informed decision. They announce how many people have died, but they do not announce how many people have used the product in the same time period. Then we need to know if any of the victims were more succeptible because of some underlying health problem. In comparison to other things, such as getting struck by lightening, it may be a very low risk which would warrant some other action, such as a large print warning label. Just to say a dozen people died in a year doesn't tell you much. Probably more people than that die falling off bicycles. We cannot regulate everything, yet it is not reasonable to regulate nothing, so first we have to have full information in order to make an informed decision. Then we have to compare it to an every day hazard, such as cheating on your spouse or slamming into that guy in front of you that's driving too slow or tossing that pain in the butt inspector off the bridge.


Comment from M. Halliwelll, (4/27/2012, 10:58 AM)

Tom, oral doses may provide a relative ranking of toxicity for the ingestion pathway, but they do not take into account the different exposure mechanisms and how readily the compounds eneter or act upon the body by these other routes. If you dipped your bare hand in liquid nicotine for a few moments, you could suffer cardiac arrest and die...but you can inhale low doses (smoke)or drink low doses without dying. My local OHS code has an 8 hr exposure limit (air) for methylene chloride of 50 ppm...twice the level of carbon monoxide (which has no LD50) and half the level for xylene (LD50 = 5000 mg/kg)or ethylbenzene (LD50=3500 mg/kg) yet the latter two are both known carcinogens so there may be actual no "safe" exposure, just ethylbenzene and xylene don't kill you right away in low doses. The problem with methylene chloride is that the general public doesn't have the knowledge to protect themselves from exposure to potentially harmful or even fatal exposure....really, how many homeowners have respirators and air quality monitoring set-ups? It also would appear that there are a lot of professionals who have become complacent with it...the old "I've used it for years and it's never hurt me" mentality. Of the three options presented, restricting methylene chloride to the industrial side is the best option,. IMHO.


Comment from Jerry Trevino, (4/30/2012, 9:55 AM)

M. Halliwell, My comment was only to be sarcastic and hopefully initiate a conversation and debate. I think I got it. I have seen MC used in inappropriate applications. It is extremely dangerous if used in large quantities especially in confined spaces. I do not believe this substance should be banned but rather controlled to be sold only to industrial uses. I do agree with a lot of the comments here. It should not be used in any residential applications or in applications where innocent people might get exposed. I just do not believe in banning everything that is dangerous. We can not even eliminate dangerous drugs. They are available everywhere. Kids die every day of drug or substance overdose. Lets place more emphasis, money and control on dangerous drugs. Let us streamline the justice system to take care of those who produce these drugs and make them available to kids, and irresponsible adults. Thanks for all the comments. This makes for important debate.


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