Researchers and physicians from the Occupational Security and Well being Administration (OSHA) and UC San Francisco have discovered that deaths of employees utilizing methylene chloride paint strippers are on the rise. The solvent is broadly utilized in paint strippers, cleaners, adhesives and sealants.
The examine is the primary complete assessment of fatalities linked to the lethal chemical in america and recognized extra deaths than beforehand reported.
The Environmental Safety Company (EPA) has acknowledged 53 fatalities related to the chemical from 1980 to 2018. The brand new examine recognized 85 deaths over the identical interval, most of them occurring in occupational settings (87 p.c). The examine is revealed April 19, 2021, in JAMA Inner Medication.
The authors urged motion from the EPA to restrict use of the chemical and forestall future deaths.
“It’s unacceptable that these employees died just because they have been doing their job,” mentioned lead writer Annie Hoang, a UCSF medical scholar and analysis fellow at UCSF’s Program on Reproductive Well being and the Surroundings. “I hope the EPA will do its job to guard our employees and save lives.”
The researchers imagine that methylene chloride fatalities are undercounted in america as a consequence of fragmented public well being reporting. To determine deaths from the chemical, the researchers undertook a large search of various sources, together with revealed scientific papers and authorities databases, compiling data that included medical data and post-mortem findings, the place accessible. Their evaluation discovered a rise since 2000 in occupational fatalities associated to each paint stripping and to toilet development, as a consequence of stripping bathtubs.
In early 2017, EPA proposed a rule banning nearly all methylene chloride strippers in each the office and for shopper use. However in 2019 below new management, EPA restricted the ban to shopper merchandise whereas nonetheless permitting business use to proceed unchecked.
“Based mostly on our findings, employees are nonetheless in danger from methylene chloride merchandise,” mentioned Kathleen Fagan, MD, MPH, former Medical Officer within the Workplace of Occupational Medication and Nursing at OSHA and one of many examine’s researchers. “Well being care suppliers have a essential function to play in stopping deaths by counseling at-risk sufferers on threat discount and offering assets on safer options to methylene chloride.”
The paper reported that whereas regulatory insurance policies during the last 25 years mandated product labeling and employee protections, fatalities continued throughout that point, with a better proportion of current deaths tied to the usage of paint stripping merchandise. The overwhelming majority of deaths have been amongst males (93.eight p.c). Of the 85 fatalities, in 70 instances that had particular details about age, the median age was 31.
The researchers concluded that regardless of regulatory efforts to handle the toxicity of methylene chloride for customers and employees, fatalities are persevering with within the U.S., significantly in occupational settings. They mentioned that prevention ought to emphasize safer substitutes, not hazard warnings or reliance on private protecting gear.
“Safer options to methylene chloride can be found and in widespread use,” mentioned senior writer Veena Singla, PhD, a senior scientist on the Pure Assets Protection Council. Beforehand, she was director of science and coverage with UCSF’s Program on Reproductive Well being and the Surroundings.
“The science is evident,” Singla mentioned. “It’s previous time to get rid of this lethal chemical and forestall any additional tragic lack of life.”