Washington – OSHA and NIOSH recently issued a hazard alert (.pdf file) that warns bathroom refinishers of the dangers associated with methylene chloride.
Workers can be exposed to methylene chloride – a colorless solvent – by inhaling it or absorbing it through their skin. The alert states that although the solvent has a sweet smell, the odor is noticeable only at levels above OSHA’s permissible exposure limit, so by the time workers smell it they have been overexposed. In addition, workers can quickly become desensitized to the odor.
OSHA requires testing the air for methylene chloride and conducting periodic air monitoring at a certain level. Additionally, the alert recommends using a minimal amount of methylene chloride during bathroom refinishing projects; ensuring adequate ventilation; using long-handled tools to avoid leaning into bathtubs; and wearing appropriate personal protective equipment, such as respirators, gloves and eye protection.
Since 2000, at least 14 worker fatalities have been linked to performing bathroom refinishing with stripping agents that contained methylene chloride, according to the alert.