OSHA, NIOSH Warn of Methylene Chloride Hazards for Bathtub Refinishers

Published February 6, 2013

Methylene chloride-based stripping agents are extremely dangerous to use if OSHA and state requirements are not followed, OSHA and NIOSH warn in a hazard alert released this month. At least 14 worker deaths related to methylene chloride exposure have been recorded since 2000, the agencies report. Investigations of these fatalities showed that workers were often working alone; working in small, poorly ventilated bathrooms; wearing inadequate respiratory protective equipment or none at all; or working without training on the hazards of methylene chloride. OSHA’s current permissible exposure limit (PEL) for methylene chloride is 25 ppm over an 8-hour time-weighted average; the agency’s short-term exposure limit (STEL) for the chemical is 125 ppm over any 15-minute period.

The hazard alert explains that methylene chloride-related deaths can be prevented by substituting less hazardous chemicals or using alternative methods for bathtub refinishing, such as sanding. If the use of methylene chloride cannot be avoided, OSHA and NIOSH urge employers to use safe work practices, such as using adequate ventilation, providing workers with proper respiratory protection and personal protective equipment, and ensuring that workers are trained according to OSHA’s methylene chloride standard.

View the hazard alert as a PDF on OSHA’s website.