Chemical used to strip bathtubs kills 13, prompts warning


US health officials issued a warning Friday about using a common paint-stripping chemical to refinish bathtubs after tying it to 13 deaths in 10 states.

The chemical, methylene chloride, is sold as a solvent and paint stripper both to professionals and in dozens of do-it-yourself products sold at home improvement stores, according to the study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Each death, dating back to 2000, happened in a residential bathroom lacking adequate ventilation, USA Today reported.

All 13 people who died were working as professional bathtub refinishers, using methylene chloride to remove old paint before resurfacing a tub with polyurethane paint, National Public Radio reported.

Ten different products containing methylene chloride that were marketed for use in the aircraft industry or on wood, metal, glass and masonry — but not for bathtub refinishing — were linked to the deaths, Reuters reported from the study.

They contained between 60 percent and 100 percent methylene chloride, described by the CDC as a highly volatile, colorless, toxic chemical.

The study's co-author, Kenneth Rosenman of Michian State University, said in a statement it is better to keep the chemical out of the bathroom. Its vapors are heavier than air and likely remain in bathtubs after each application.

"To use products containing methylene chloride safely, work areas must be well-ventilated, and when levels of methylene chloride exceed recommended exposure limits, workers must use protective equipment," said Rosenman, chief of the school's Division of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. "In a small bathroom, it is unlikely these products can be used safely."

The CDC report recommended alternate bathtub stripping methods like sanding, or chemicals including acetate, mineral spirits and caustic paste instead of a methylene chlorided-based agent.

Sign up for our daily newsletter

Sign up for The Top of the World, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning.