June 8, 2018

How to use paint strippers with hazardous chemicals safely

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. —  As retailers move to stop selling paint strippers that contain two potentially hazardous chemicals, a Purdue University chemist has some words of caution for those who continue to use this type of product.

“Like everything else – guns, knives, noxious chemicals – methylene chloride is safe when it is used safely,” said George Bodner, a professor of chemical education at Purdue. “If I was going to use it, I would use it in an open garage or in the backyard. I’d also wear a surgical mask and gloves.”

It was reported last week that Lowes Home Improvement announced that it will stop selling products that contain methylene chloride and N-Methylpyrrolidone (NMP) by the end of the year.

Several people have died from exposure to methylene chloride, usually when used in poorly ventilated spaces. The chemical is known to cause cancer in mice, but its long-term effects on humans are not totally understood. Short-term effects include headaches, dizziness, nausea and memory loss.

Exposure to NMP is especially dangerous for pregnant women – the chemical is known to cause fetal death. 

The Environmental Protection Agency recently announced it will move forward with an Obama-era proposal to ban methylene chloride. The agency has not commented on its intentions regarding a similar ban on NMP.

Bodner can discuss how to handle methylene chloride safely, how to identify these substances, alternative products for paint removal and potential health impacts from dangerous exposure.  

Writer: Kayla Zacharias, 765-494-9318, kzachar@purdue.edu 

Sources: George Bodner, 765-494-5313, gmbodner@purdue.edu

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