Methylene chloride-based paint thinners can cause serious illness or death for Las Vegas workers. According to a USA Today report, at least 13 workers died in 2000 alone due to the use of paint strippers containing this toxic chemical. Whether exposed through contact with the skin or inhalation of the fumes, a researcher from Michigan State University’s Division of Occupational Medicine points out that exposure to as little as a tablespoon of methylene chloride may prove fatal.

EPA Bans Methylene Chloride for Consumers but Leaves Workers at Risk

The Environmental Protection Agency recently implemented a ban on paint strippers containing methylene chloride for consumers. However, the rule still allows contractors and other professionals to use these products – leading to outcries from those who have lost loved ones due to exposure to these solvents, workers injured as a result of using such products, and public interest groups. Although the EPA is considering rules that would further limit the use of methylene chloride-based products for workers and require specialized training, at least one public-interest group has taken legal action against the agency. The group claims that by failing to implement a full ban on the solvent, the agency did not do enough to help protect the immigrant and Latino workers who often perform jobs that use these dangerous paint thinners.

The Effects of Methylene Chloride Exposure

Exposure to paint strippers that contain methylene chloride may cause a range of symptoms and adverse health effects for workers. After short-term exposure, people may experience headaches, nausea, vomiting, eye irritation, and respiratory tract irritation. Turning into carbon monoxide in the body, methylene chloride may cut off the heart’s oxygen supply, which may result in asphyxiation or heart attack. Long-term exposure may cause cognitive impairment, liver or kidney toxicity, and certain types of cancer. When methylene chloride-containing paint thinners come in contact with the skin, they may cause irritation or chemical burns.

Workers’ Compensation and Paint Thinner-Related Illnesses

Workers who contract serious illnesses and the families of those who die as a result of occupational methylene chloride exposure may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. Provided contact with the solvent arose in the course of performing their job duties, injured workers may receive benefits such as medical care coverage, temporary or permanent disability, and rehabilitation services.