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MSU Researchers Discover Bathtub Refinishing Product Linked to Deaths

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Two Michigan State University researchers made an important discovery recently when they found that a chemical found in bathtub refinishers is linked to death. The heavy-duty chemical solvent, Methylene chloride, is slightly sweet smelling and colorless, but is a toxic chemical that is commonly used to degrease or strip paint, as well as refinish bathtubs. It has been linked to a total of 13 deaths nationwide and 3 in Michigan since 2007.

Methylene chloride is so dangerous, in fact, that the researchers say that people using it to refinish bathtubs can die instantly from simply inhaling it or from it absorbing into their skin–even through gloves. The hazard of the chemical came to light last year after an MSU team studied the mysterious death of a 2010 bathtub refinisher who was using an aircraft paint stripper to remove paint from a tub. The team noticed a second death in 2010 of a bathtub refinisher who was also using the same product. Finally, they noted a third death of a self-employed bathtub refinisher using a different product with the same chemical in it.

The team then reported their findings to the Centers for Disease Control and after conducting a database review of worker deaths, discovered that the chemical was to blame. The numbers of people dying from using Methylene chloride don't include the self-employed or Do-It-Yourselfers, potentially raising the death toll. Although Methylene chloride is a very effective paint stripper, the researchers say it is best not to use the product in enclosed spaces and that it would be best to use products that don't contain the chemical at all.