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Workers exposed to common paint strippers suffer fatal reactions

Workers exposed to common paint strippers suffer fatal reactions

Methylene chloride and NMP

Litigation is advancing against the distributors and resellers of paint strippers containing methylene chloride and N-Methylpyrrolidone [NMP]. The lawsuits were filed for damages resulting from the alleged exposure, illness, and death of users of the products.

One of the most severe dangers of exposure to methylene chloride is a fatal respiratory condition caused by inhalation of the substance. Methylene chloride turns into carbon monoxide in the body and starves the heart of oxygen, and a fatal heart attack occurs. It also acts as an anesthetic at high doses causing exposed individuals to stop breathing because of brain reactions. Even workers who have utilized respiratory protection have died after exposure to methylene chloride.

For over three decades, medical conditions related to methylene chloride have been reported. As early as 1976, researchers at the Medical College of Wisconsin reported that “…The in-home use of paint removers containing methylene chloride results in the absorption of this solvent, which is metabolized to carbon monoxide.”

Traditional workers’ compensation programs compensate workers and their dependents for scheduled benefits as a result of occupational exposures such as to methylene chloride. Injured workers and their dependents are now also filing claims against the manufacturer, i.e. and distributors, ie. Lowes and Home Depot, of the paint stripping products for failing to adequately warn of the dangers of products containing methylene chloride.

Methylene chloride is regulated by the US Environmental Protection Agency as of March 2019. The California Department of Public Health has stated that “….the continuing deaths suggest methylene chloride is ‘too hazardous to be used outside of engineered industrial environments.’”  Additionally, the European Union made the same pronouncement.

Lowe’s, a leading product retailer of products containing methylene chloride and NMP, has announced that “…. it will phase out paint removal products with the chemicals methylene chloride and NMP from its global product selection by the end of the year. This effort is part of the company’s ongoing commitment to bringing safer, affordable options to customers. The company plans to work with the EPA on a consistent regulatory standard across the industry.”

Methylene chloride litigation mirrors the epic litigation of other notoriously dangerous substances like asbestos and tobacco. In those cases, the benefits under the workers’ compensation insurance act were so limited that creative product liability litigation emerged. Monumental compensatory and punitive damage awards generated from an emerging wave of lawsuits ultimately made the workplace safer. 


The author, Jon L. Gelman, practices law in Wayne, NJ. He is the author of NJ Workers’ Compensation Law (Thomson-Reuters) and co-author of the national treatise Modern Workers’ Compensation Law (Thomson-Reuters). For over five decades, the Law Offices of Jon L Gelman  1.973.696.7900 have represented injured workers and their families who have suffered occupational accidents and illnesses.

Recommended Citation: Gelman, Jon L.,  Workers exposed to common paint strippers suffer fatal reactions, (2000),

© 2001-2023 Jon L Gelman. All rights reserved.

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