Monthly Archives: October 2016

The Reason Why The Bathtubs Linked to Worker Deaths

A chemical used to strip bathtubs has been associated with more than a dozen deaths of people working as bathtub refinishers in the United States in the last 12 years, according to a new report.

Methylene chloride is used in industrial processes but is also available in over-the-counter paint- and finish-stripping products. It’s previously been identified as a potential cause of death among furniture strippers and factory workers, according to a news release from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

In 2010, the U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health-funded Michigan Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation program investigated the death of a bathtub refinisher in the state who used a methylene chloride-based paint-stripping product marketed for use in aircraft maintenance. Investigators also identified two earlier, similar deaths in Michigan.

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration also identified 10 other deaths of bathtub refinishers who used methylene chloride stripping agents that had been investigated between 2000 and 2011 in nine states.

All of the deaths occurred in residential bathrooms with inadequate ventilation. The victims either did not use protective respiratory equipment or the equipment they used did not protect against methylene chloride vapor, according to the report in the Feb. 24 edition of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, published by the CDC.

Victims ranged in age from 23 to 57 years, and 12 of the 13 were male, the authors of the report noted.

“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,” study co-author Kenneth Rosenman, chief of the Division of Occupational and Environmental Medicine in the College of Human Medicine, at Michigan State University, said in a university news release. “In a small bathroom, it is unlikely these products can be used safely,” he added.

Ten different products were associated with the deaths, with six marketed for use in the aircraft industry and the others for use on wood, metal, glass and masonry. Bathtub refinishing was not mentioned on any of the product labels.

Have a Health Emergency on Your Home

Tom Kirsch, MD, a member of the American Red Cross Scientific Advisory Council and professor at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, is an emergency medicine expert who has been part of disaster relief efforts for 25 years. He’s weathered plenty of storms — including Hurricane Katrina — rescued civilians during wildfires, and provided emergency care during 9/11.

In general, Dr. Kirsch advises anyone in late-term pregnancy or with a serious, chronic condition – such as diabetes or cancer – to consider staying temporarily where there is sufficient access to medical care.

Frequently, he says, ambulances are unable to get where they need to when heavy rain and wind pick up during a hurricane. While it’s always best to call 911 if you are experiencing a medical emergency, Kirsch stresses that there is absolutely no guarantee emergency care can be provided. “If you have a significant medical condition, you need to leave” – meaning evacuate to a location where you can get care if needed.

However, Kirsch recognizes that not everyone is able or willing to evacuate their homes. And for those individuals, his advice is simple: “If you choose to stay, you need to be able to take care of yourself and others.” Here are some simple ways to do that.

  • Be sure you have your meds. If you require daily medication, the Red Cross recommends you have at least three days’ worth of your prescription drugs on-hand. In Kirsch’s experience, it’s always best to have more than that. He says five-day supply s is usually more than sufficient.
  • Know basic first aid and CPR. “A lot of people buy first-aid kits but don’t know how to use them,” says Kirsch. Though at this juncture it may be too late to learn the basics, consider taking a free class at your local Red Cross for future preparedness. Kirsch notes that there are short-term classes to learn CPR basics, as well as classes to learn more complex first-aid essentials such as how to stop bleeding and dress a wound.
  • Stay in touch with your neighbors. Knowing who is close by is a simple way to stay safe. But this advice works both ways, says Kirsch. If you know your elderly or pregnant neighbor is home alone, it’s important to reach out should they need anything.

Do You Know That Trappings Can Fan Fire Risk

The risk of burns increases over the holiday season because people are cooking more, putting up potentially flammable decorations and using fireplaces and candles.

“We see a significant increase in burn patients between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Your holiday, which should be full of joy and celebration, can quickly turn tragic,” Dr. Jeff Guy, director of Vanderbilt Regional Burn Center in Nashville, Tenn., said in a Vanderbilt University news release.

Many of these injuries are easily preventable if people are cautious and eliminate potential dangers that could lead to burns.

Guy outlined a number of ways to prevent burns and have a safe holiday season.

Staying in the kitchen and being attentive while cooking can prevent most cooking fires. Keep pot holders, wooden utensils, towels, food packaging and anything else that can catch fire away from the stovetop.

Use turkey fryers outdoors and keep them a safe distance from the building. Never overfill a fryer with oil and never leave it unattended.

When you buy an artificial Christmas tree, select one with a “fire resistant” label. When buying a real tree, check for freshness. It should be green, the needles should be hard to pull, the trunk should be sticky with resin and the tree shouldn’t lose many needles when it’s hit.

Keep fresh trees away from fireplaces and radiators and keep the tree stand filled with water. A well-watered tree is usually safe but it can take just a few seconds for a dry tree to be ablaze, Guy said.

Check new and old sets of Christmas lights for broken or cracked sockets, frayed wires or loose connections, and discard damaged sets. Don’t overload extension cords and never use electric lights on a metallic tree.