Here is how to protect you from chemicals in the workplace.

On our site we’ve added a Q&A with links to the Material Safety Data Sheets on the effects of methylene chloride. The idea came from a potential client asking about what he could do legally against a former employer who failed to protect the employees from breathing methylene chloride in a small industrial shop over a 12 year period. Not only did we add the Q&A we also added examples of MSDS to the Lombardi Law Firm website. MSDS 1, MSDS 2 & MSDS 3.

I think there is more to this that should be discussed and so Katrina and I will add some content about methylene chloride next week.

Q: I've been exposed to methylene chloride at work, what should I do?

The MSDS’s are Material Safety Data Sheets that all employers must make available to employees. The MSDS is a written explanation of a chemical. It provides the risks that you should be aware.  The MSDS’s any employer provides are for chemicals employees can be exposed to when working in that employer’s business. In other words if it is in your shop the employer should have the MSDS for that chemical. Some do and some probably don’t, which is a violation of OSHA’s rules, but when did this ever stop anyone from engaging in commerce? If you are wondering about the chemicals in your workplace ask your employer for the MSDS’s. And if those aren’t forthcoming then take your smart phone and take a photograph of the labels on all chemical containers. When you get home look up the MSDS’s on the Internet. That way you’ll know if you are being exposed to hazardous chemicals in your workplace and how to protect yourself.

Now let’s say the employer decides to give you a hard time and refuses to provide the data sheets or to provide inhalation protection or any other protection. You can always anonymously report the employer to OSHA at the federal or state level.I'll try and get to this next week and add a blog just on this anonymous reporting option. But today let us focus on methylene chloride. 

Here are health concerns as published by the NRDC:

Health Concerns

Methylene chloride causes cancer in animals and potentially can cause cancer in humans. Methylene chloride causes lung and liver tumors, and mammary (breast) tumors in animal studies.

Exposure to methylene chloride affects the nervous system (brain) and can cause headaches, dizziness, nausea, clumsiness, drowsiness, and other effects like those of being drunk. Effects on the nervous system can be long-lasting and possibly permanent if exposures are high, and if they occur frequently over months or years.

Methylene chloride is converted to carbon monoxide in the body. Since carbon monoxide interferes with oxygen delivery, methylene chloride can make angina and other heart symptoms worse in people with heart disease. People with lung conditions, smokers, and people who are overweight or pregnant also may be more sensitive to methylene chloride.

When inhaled or absorbed through the skin, methylene chloride can reach the developing fetus through the placenta, and it can enter breast milk.

Obviously, this chemical is not one employees can safely inhale. Now before I end this blog I’ve saved a couple of the Material Data Safety Sheets for methylene chloride as a jpg and included it in this blog. Hopefully it worked well enough for you to review it. If it didn’t just follow the links listed above. The one about bathtub refinishing will make an interesting subject for next week. Until then call us if you have a question about becoming a client of the Lombardi Law Firm.


Steve Lombardi
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Iowa personal injury, workers' compensation, motorcycle, quadriplegic, paraplegic, brain injury, death
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