Release date: January 6, 1978
Release number: 78-002

Release Details

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has instructed its staff to prepare proposed warnings on paint strippers containing methylene chloride for people with heart or lung problems.

When inhaled, methylene chloride forms carbon monoxide in the body, reducing the blood's potential to carry oxygen and causing stress on the heart. The Commission has learned of at least three deaths from heart attacks in 1976 after use of paint and varnish removers containing methylene chloride. One CPSC investigation in 1976 showed a fatality apparently caused by inhaling fumes from a paint stripper with the chemical.

Current labeling on paint strippers with methylene chloride warns consumers to use "adequate ventilation" and to avoid "prolonged inhalation." According to CPSC staff, an error in judgment by a healthy consumer when following these instructions will most likely result in only a minor injury, if any. "But for a heavy smoker or person with a heart problem, that same error in judgment could result in serious injury or even death," the staff reports.

Commission action came in response to a petition from the Empire State Consumer Association, Rochester, NY, which proposed the following labels for the paint strippers: 'Warning -- Forms carbon monoxide in the body. Particular care in use must be exercised by persons with heart problems or impaired lung function."

If approved by the Commission, the warning will appear in the Federal Register for comment.

In another labeling action, the Commission will encourage Underwriters Laboratories (UL) in Chicago to upgrade their labeling requirements for hand-held hair dryers, warning against use while in the bathtub. Since 1973, CPSC has learned of 29 deaths from electrocution by hair dryers; 26 occurred while the victim was in the tub.

The Commission decision followed denial of two petitions to develop a mandatory safety standard to address flaming and overheating in hand-held hair dryers. CPSC staff concludes that the recent "significant improvements" in UL standards should reduce these hazards.